“Baby, I think every bad thing that has ever happened to me my whole life was to prepare me for you. And it was worth it.”
His vexation was palpable. “Beg pardon?”
“All of the bad shit that happened to me changed who I was, made me a better person, or a more compassionate person – all of it was to help me become someone you love, who was also ready and able to love you.”
He blinked. “That is the most peculiar and beautiful thing anyone has ever said to me.”
Today marks the one-year anniversary of my first visit to San Diego. I came to visit some Michigan friends who had moved here a couple of years before, and also to see if I might be interested in living here myself. As you’ve seen, I love to ride, so I had one requirement for my next place of residence: I needed to be able to ride my motorcycle year-round on beautiful roads. That was my single criterion. I was tired of putting up the bikes for 4-5 months out of the year, tired of riding in straight lines on boring, flat, shitty roads.
To be honest, we don’t get many snows like this anymore. Back in the 70’s, the whole winter was like this, and it was pretty great. Now, things just tend to be below freezing cold, dead, gray, and awful.
I was always interested in and attracted to motorcycles, but they seemed so unsafe, so unstable. Then I dated a guy (hi, Troy) with a V65 Sabre, and after a few rides on the back, I said, “ok, fuck this – I wanna drive.” I was 26 then, and I wish I’d started when I was 16. Or 6, for that matter. Instead, young Erin’s need for speed was confined to sneaking the family car out and careening down those abandoned country roads with my best friend, Lisa, and to tractors, and to roller skates.
A favorite childhood pastime.
Fast-forward to now: I’ve been riding for a minute – about 22 years, but the vast, overwhelming majority of that time was spent riding in central Michigan (otherwise known as, “where roads and cars both go to die.”) Whilst living in Lansing, we had to ride 30 minutes in one of two directions to hit any sort of twisties. Northwest, there were several s-curves in a row – several! Several was a big deal back there. Southeast there was a longer bit of road that was more twisty and which took a good 20 or so minutes to travel in one direction. Then, from there, we had a few fairly attractive options in the Ann Arbor area, but nothing to write home about. Let me show you what I mean – this is a map of the area:
See all those straight lines? Now imagine them filled with potholes the size of a Buick. That’s central Michigan for you.
Central Michigan is very agriculturally driven; those roads tend to either follow the property/field lines or water. As a result – I bought a Harley. Now, now, hear me out – I’ve been a sport and sport-touring rider for my entire riding career, and I largely held Harleys in contempt. In contempt, that is, until I rode one and just had a grin on my face the whole time.
No regrets – She was a great Michigan Bike.
So it came to pass that, in 2012, at the beginning of my very own Mid-Life Crisis*, I bought a brand new Harley Super Glide Custom, named her Dahlia, and spent about 16,000 very happy miles on her. Harleys are fun to ride in straight roads. Now, for those of you who have never lived anywhere but in San Diego County, “straight roads” are exactly what they sound like – roads with nary a curve to be seen. Freeways here in SoCal are better than the best roads in central Michigan. You feel me? Right on.
I thought I was a pretty damned good rider when I lived in Michigan.
I was, of course, wrong – it’s just that Michigan is not precisely a hotbed of super-accomplished motorcyclists.
Thus, when I moved here, I basically had to learn how to ride all over again in a more tactical manner. Chuck and Lorraine took me on my maiden ride, and I was utterly blown away. We hit Sunrise, we hit Mesa Grande, we hit Palomar, we hit The Chairs, we hit … other roads I don’t remember… but I was exhausted by the end of it. My brain was going a kazillion miles an hour, and my shoulders were a little fatigued from “all the pushing” of the handlebars. Some of the turns intimidated the hell out of me – heck, some entire roads intimidated me (Highland Valley, for example, was just a huge stressor for a good, long while.)
Back then, I was riding my now-gone FZ1-R1, and I loved her desperately.
Power all day long.
Many of you will remember: I was slowwwwww. As my beloved Mike Mc. recently said, “Erin, when you joined this club, you couldn’t pass a mouse.” He’s not wrong.
On impulse, I bought an FJ 09 for the annual trek up to Gerlach, Nevada (where I first met Chuck in the 90’s!) Had I known better then, I would’ve skipped straight to the GS and saved myself some money and headache, but I didn’t know what I didn’t know. Recently, Randy dubbed this bike “Cassandra:”
Sadly, the FJ did no favors to my riding skills; the stock tires were so utterly abysmal – what they lacked in road feel they also lacked in grip. Confidence = undermined.
Thus, when I first started riding with the club, I was inexperienced on these roads, on a bike whose tires fought me every inch of the way. It wasn’t until I put new PR4’s on Cassandra that my riding noticeably improved and I began to fully appreciate the FJ’s light weight, incredible power, and extreme agility. Juuuuust in time to buy the GS, naturally.
By the time I picked up the GS, I mostly had the hang of San Diego roads, and the confidence boost the GS gave me was immense. You all know the story of how Ember came to pass, so suffice to say, I am so happy with this bike. She is the best bike, the nicest bike, I have ever had. I ride the GS better and faster than any bike I’ve had, and only some of that can be attributed to me – much glory to the bike.
Best. Bike. EVER.
I’ve been gradually riding better and better, thanks to following behind some of the best riders I’ve ever personally known: Rex, the two Scott’s, Phil, Tom, the aforementioned Mike, Nick, Edward, Rich, Jonathan, Bob S., a couple of Bill’s, and more than a few assorted others. You guys have been the best instructors, just leading by example most of the time, and at others, offering advice.
Lately, I’ve come to feel more confident, and confidence is where it’s at.
The San Luis Obispo trip was a huge turning point for me; these were roads I’d never ridden on previously, in a group comprised of people with whom I’d not ridden previously (or at least not much, apart from Scott R. and Scooter Bob.) Thus, I had no expectations, no preconceived notions of what was hard, what was easy, what was scary, and who was “way faster than I am.”
I just rode, subscribing largely to the, “If He Can Do It, So Can I” theory of speed – if Scott, on his older GS, could keep this pace on roads he hadn’t ever been on before… shit, maybe I could, too.
Familiar words echoed in my head: “Erin, you have got to learn to trust that GS.” The thing is, I trust the GS implicitly – that bike knows what it’s doing, no question. The distrust lies within myself – I don’t trust my reflexes, my judgment, enough to have faith that whatever is around that turn, I can handle it. I feel like all of the people I noted above have that kind of confidence – and, short of a bus blocking both lanes, they’re probably right.
Sure, the odds are in our favor on blind curves, but one never truly knows. I was talking to The Unnamed Gentleman the other night about this very thing, and he summed things up succinctly: “I ride for the 99% of the time it’s going to be clear; you might choose to ride for the 1% it might not be.” He went on to talk about ways to mitigate possible problems (late-apex cornering, for example,) but in the end, it comes down to faith and common sense.
Faith and common sense. Are these mutually exclusive?
I’ve had more than a few “oh, shit!” moments on bikes when reflexes and instinct took over and everything worked out just fine – my muscle memory and judgment did their things. Those things weren’t always the best courses of action, but they got me through.
And it surprises me Every. Damn. Time.
After the SLO trip, though, I noticed a change. Yes, some of the curves and roads were still a bit intimidating, but it didn’t matter as much – sit there, twist that, everything is good and fun. Fine and dandy. I’ve been working consciously on removing any preconceived notions of “this curve is scary” and instead, just riding.
This past weekend, I rode with Klaus for the first time, just the two of us. He took it easy on me at first, and then suddenly, we were fucking flying through the curves. I started scraping things. Hard. Hard enough to actually warrant backing off on Montezuma because I was afraid three points of contact were going to flip me into a high-side or other gnarly situation. I am certain Klaus could have gone a fair bit faster, flinging that HP2 all over hell and gone, but we were moving right along.
The sidestand footprint enlarger took a hell of a beating on Sunday. It hangs down a fair bit lower than the peg – which somehow also got scraped. No bueno, no bueno at all.
Upon seeing that, The Unnamed Gentleman said, “Your suspension is on SOFT.”
“Hard ROAD, hard DYNA?”
“So when you’re pushing that hard, try one rider with bags. It will keep the bike from sagging at the apex under the G-force.”
“I’m afraid that’ll be a little tall when stopping.”
“Won’t really affect the height.”
I went downstairs and adjusted the suspension, feeling the bike lift up a good two inches on me. “Won’t really affect the height,” he said. I’ll give it a go for now, though.
After Sunday’s romp, I have zero chicken strips on my rear tire and I have to say – that feels pretty awesome. However, I’m now confronted with learning how to ride all over again at a different level – using body weight to reduce lean angle. I’m not going to be dragging knees anytime soon, and likely never will, but I have to start getting used to hanging my ass off the saddle a bit to help things along.
Plus, I need to learn how to ride in the dirt. All the learning: I can’t wait. All of this I would love to one day parlay into a traveling, ADV-moto-journalist career, but I can’t afford to quit the day job just yet, and it’s not an easy field to break into.
Back to my main point: This club has been amazing and has helped me to advance my riding by several levels. You’ve shown me the best roads, both paved and not, you’ve given me a tribe here in SoCal when I had none.
I am exceptionally grateful to all of you who have been so welcoming, so kind, so gracious, so helpful. I want to give a bunch back to the club and am still figuring out the best ways to do it.
From the bottom of this Michigan farm girl’s overflowing heart – thank you. I’ll do my best to make everyone a casserole over time.
* The rest of the mid-life crisis went like this: Chop off 20 inches of hair; dye short hair weirdo colors (wait, I’m still doing that – shit;) leave husband; divorce husband; proceed to date a bunch of people half my age; buy a flashier car than I needed; run up credit card debt; move to SoCal.
I get ideas in my head which can often be summed up thusly: “It seemed like a good idea at the time:” Renting an apartment in Mission Valley; dating a 26-year-old boy when I was 45; buying an FJ-09; trying that long carom shot. You get the picture.
I loves me some camping – remote, rustic, wilderness camping. Too often, I forget that campgrounds are frequently the opposite of that, and such was the case at the El Chorro facility. My campsite had “full hookups,” an asphalt pad, and about 3 square feet of level terrain for a tent. Almost no shade. Neighbors on three sides. Bathroom 100′ away. “Rustic,” it was not. But it was camping – I was outside, the weather was good, the setting quite lovely, and it was only for a few days. Noooo problem.
When I travel, I pack for Contingencies: Just as our protective gear doesn’t do us any good in our closets, a tire plug kit, fuel siphon, et cetera, won’t be of any help if left at home. This is how I came to have over 85 pounds of luggage strapped to the GS for the Central Coast 2018 trip. Had I not been camping, and had it not been in the upper 40’s at night, my Gear Situation would’ve been halved, but these are the choices I made. I was prepped, man – all the warm clothes. Jetboil. Stove fuel. Food. Sleeping bag and pad. Trauma and tool kits. Snacks.
Difficult choices had to be made, however; the battery charger and air compressor had to be left behind. Thankfully, they (along with damn near all other contingency gear) were not required in the end.
Thursday night, thanks to other less-than-wise choices, I got about four hours of highly interrupted sleep, and 5am came a hell of a lot earlier than it normally seems to. After mainlining some coffee, throwing together some last-minute odds and ends, and getting the bike gassed up, I was on the road at 6am sharp – right on schedule. Riding up the 15 was chilly but otherwise uneventful, and I found the gas station and McDonald’s where we were to meet. A few others were already present, and soon our full contingent was ready to roll.
And roll we did.
As with any bike, the GS is a different animal with that much gear loaded on – the air currents moved us around differently, she cornered less effectively, et cetera – all things you’d expect. I do not carry passengers – ever – for a variety of reasons, and having this much Stuff was a bit like having a small human clutching to the rear of the bike. Still, Ember performed absolutely flawlessly, and I was able to keep up with Scott’s medium pace.
There was one small moment of terror at the very beginning of the trip as we were going through the first part of a twisty section. We came upon a small, steep rise past which I could not see. What I did see, however, was Gary’s helmet go up and over, and then take an immediate sharp right. Oh, fuck – I was going a bit too fast for this sort of maneuver, but over and over we went, studiously ignoring the oncoming Honda Civic to my left and the enormous tree trunk to my right. Right peg scraped as we hit the bottom of the downhill bit and entered the turn.
Someone near and dear to me recently said, “Erin, you have got to learn to trust that GS.” While where my trust lies and why is a topic for another time, the SLO trip and moments like this one did wonders for all levels of trust everywhere. Ember sailed through the turn without a wobble, despite my elevated pulse and the scraping metal. “Oh,” I said, after the non-event. “Well, alright then.” Onward.
Unaware of the amazing scenery that would be in the offing on the trip up, I did not have a GoPro running at all, much to my own great disappointment. The mountain passes, the high desert, the ranches, the everything, was stunningly beautiful. And then there was Maricopa, which I think we can all agree we wish did not exist at all. While the GoPro wasn’t loaded and running, it was attached to the front of the bike – at least it was for awhile. At some point a few hours in, I noticed it dangling at the end of its power cord. Well, shit – I picked it up and tucked it into a reasonably secure spot on the dashboard where it rode until our next gas stop.
At said stop, I went to turn into the gas station and suddenly found I could not move the handlebars at all. My first thought made no sense, but is the result of having grown up in the 70’s and 80’s with old cars that became absolutely impossible to steer if the engine died and took out the power steering: The bike must’ve died and the power steering… wait, that can’t be right. In a few fractions of a second, I managed to steer the bike with lean and come to a safe stop where I discovered the GoPro had wedged itself between handlebar and fairing. Shit, that would’ve been SUPER bad at speed – I sent a silent “thank you” to the universe and anyone out there who might be listening.
Scott did a fantastic job leading us on a perfect pace for the type and duration of the trip: It was quick, but sane. Once safely in SLO, we rolled into the hotel to get everyone situated. Rick arrived with his Diavel in tow (thanks to a brake assembly fiasco with his GSA,) and while he was basically prepared for the implications of that bike… he was going to be in a world of hurt after a day or two. His SUV did provide a large number of us with safe passage to and from dinners, though, which was much appreciated. Even though sitting in that third row with my knees up around my ears was an excellent substitute for yoga, it sure beat having to wrangle my gear and the bike all through town, and also allowed me an adult beverage at dinner.
After a short time, I headed over to the campground to see what that situation was going to be like: “Disappointing” is one word I would use. I had decided to camp for two reasons: 1.) It saved me over $400, and 2.) SOMEONE WAS SUPPOSED TO BE THERE CAMPING WITH ME. Oh, I’m sorry – did I yell that out loud? I did? Darn. At any rate, camping buddy Homemade Bob bailed on me, so solo camping it would be.
I could go on at some length about my amazing tent: It’s solar-powered, has LED lighting, a small fan, a small lantern, and various charging abilities. I was not by any stretch “roughing it” with this setup. It takes less than 5 minutes for 2 people to set up and just over 5 for a singular Erin to do the job. I believe it took more time to find “basically level” spot to set up than it did to actually set the thing up. I caught up on work, then headed back to the hotel for dinner.
Our member from Sonoma, CA, Mike (Marco’s friend) and I cuddled up next to each other in the back seat. While we’d never laid eyes on each other prior to that night, we are now quite well-acquainted simply by virtue of having been packed together like sardines.
Dinner was nice, and we were all fairly crispy from the long day of travel, so we adjourned for the day. I was out like a light before 21:00, and I slept like a rock somehow, warm and toasty in my favorite bag.
I woke up without an alarm shortly before 5 and realized… I have to get out of my sleeping bag. Oh, fuck this. When I get really, really cold, only hot water can truly warm me up. It was 50 degrees and 100 feet to the bathrooms where a shower awaited: I’ve got this. I gathered up my shower kit, flung myself out of bag and tent, and shivered my way the short distance only to find… coin-operated showers. Fuck me in the eye. FINE. Scurried back, found a few quarters, disrobed reluctantly, tossed the quarter into the slot, and cringed as the cold water sprayed out all around me. I did the “I’m freezing my nekkid butt off” dance for a good full minute, but there was absolutely no change in water temperature. A few minutes later, same, and the quarter ran out. Son of a whore. This is suddenly not my idea of a good time.
I glared at the showerhead, at the coin slot, at the faucet, and at my bottle of Dr. Bronner’s which was dutifully waiting to be used for all the things from shampoo to toothpaste. All of them were unintimidated, and I’m fairly sure I saw the showerhead shrug. One of my favorite movies is Kenneth Branagh’s “Henry V,” and a line from it echoed in my head: “I was not angry since I came to France until this instant!” Whose idea was this “camping” bullshit? OH, RIGHT – THE GUY WHO’S NOT HERE. Fine. FINE. Plan B. I used my camp washcloth and the sink to wash the most crucial bits, brushed my teeth, and called it good. I was shivering to the point of chattering teeth, but a down jacket, heated grips, and soon thereafter, hot coffee awaited. I rushed to get over to the coffee shop where the gang was to meet at 7. The coffee was hot, the strata tasty, and the company excellent.
Back to the hotel by way of the gas station, where everyone was getting themselves ready under the dreary overcast sky. Clouds obscured most of the mountain tops, but we were confident it would burn off. Scott and Rich led us through the mists and clouds, and, as we were going through a pass, it went from 60 degrees to 78 degrees over the course of (I kid you not) 30 seconds. I soon found myself wearing a down liner and long johns at 80 degrees and began to swelter. Welp, surely Scott would stop soon and I could shed some layers.
NOPE! At least there was enough breeze from our speed to force some air through my vents… oh, wait — now we’re going up Painted Cave Road at all of 10 – 20 miles per hour most of the time. Oh, holy heat. I began desperately sending Scott telepathic messages: “Please stop, Scott. Scott. Stop, please. Hey, hey Scott? Could we please, for the love of everything holy, stop? Scott, I am dying. Goodbye, cruel world, goodbye. Feed my remains to the sea.”
He ignored me.
But wait! He’s pulling to the side now! YAY! I began to pass the bikes ahead of me to talk to him and ask him to please give me a minute to … fuck. And we’re off again. Rivulets of sweat coursed over my entire everything. Painted Cave Road goes through a stunningly beautiful area and up a large, steep mountain. The road is just shy of 1.5 lanes, and accommodates traffic going both up and down the hill. Fortunately, uphill traffic (if convention holds here as it does elsewhere) has the right of way, so our progress was largely unimpeded. There were so many bicyclists, though, placing their very lives into the hands of utter strangers passing them. Most were polite, others took up their legally allowed full space irrespective of the danger it may cause themselves and others.
At the summit, we pulled into a woodchipped parking area, where many of us immediately leaped off our machines and began to strip down as if on fire. As the cool breeze began to work its magic, things became much more pleasant. The view, while a bit hazy, was spectacular. Dennis took a few group shots and managed not to injure himself in the process – good show! Scott briefly turned into a mountain goat. A great many of us became somewhat panicked at what we thought might be poison oak we were standing in the middle of.
After a bit, we set off on the downhill side, where one absolutely insane, highly skilled bicyclist lead all but the first few bikes the whole way down on those skinny, skinny tires of his – amazing. There were skateboarders to boot, and holy shit are they ever freakin’ not right in the head. Some wore only helmets and no other gear – even if their own skills were top-notch, one asshole could really ruin their lives. <shudder>
Our first choice for lunch was beachside and absolutely slammed: No food for us there. At this point, the group became a bit splintered while decisions were made. Some ended up leaving ahead of Mr. Road Captain, and we ended up making a different choice on where to go – Cold Springs Tavern it was. Parking there was a nightmare, and I found myself wedged between a work truck and a shed in some fairly deep gravel. Fortunately, Mike parked behind me and was able to help me wrangle the bike when it came time to leave.
The smell of BBQ wafting through the air was unspeakably tantalizing as they readied a table for us. Inside, it was dim and hot, but there were pitchers of water and iced tea to be had. I’m fairly sure we drained a three-county area of all cold liquids in about 8 minutes. The food was excellent, and this was a great opportunity to get to know the people I’d either not met previously or didn’t know well. Our mealtime conversations over the weekend ranged from porn to health to family values to wine to mythology to sexual harassment to social mores to beer and beyond. Politics and handguns of course came up, but never in the same discussion – we’re not complete idiots.
As Rick said a couple of times, “Where else but a BMW club are you going to get this kind of variety?” Incidentally, Rick also said he drives better after he’s been drinking – I’m not entirely convinced that’s the case, but I think having drunk passengers might make that seem to be true.
After lunch, we headed to Solvang, which had been almost completely shut down due to a parade of one sort or another. Most of the group called it a day, but Marco, Mike, and I weren’t ready to call it just yet. Mike led us for another couple hundred miles until we ran out of ideas and daylight. Back to the hotel for dinner. A very generous club member allowed me to use his shower, which was amaaaaaaazing.
The next morning, I was mentally prepared for no hot shower, so it was less brutal getting things around. I’d somehow lost my earplugs and had run out of room on my SD cards, so I headed to the nearest 24-hour store which was about 20 minutes North. Back to town for coffee and breakfast, and we headed out for the day’s adventure, which was truly stunning in every way. I opted for the longer route, and I’d have to review the route maps to tell you where we went, but all of it was just super fun.
One rider dropped his bike at an intersection, and that was thankfully (to my knowledge) the only incident of the weekend. More lunchtime troubles resulted in eating at a mediocre Chinese buffet before heading off once again.
I’d not ridden with Jim and Suzy Freeman previously, and what an inspiration that ended up being! When we finished with Santa Rosa Creek and were getting back underway, I made sure the two-up riders were behind me – most two-up bikes are understandably not as quick as those of us who aren’t encumbered. After lunch, however, Jim popped into place right behind Scott – and proceeded to ride the pants off the rest of us like whoa. Suzy passengered like a champ, and Jim rode that bike like an F16 pilot on some tight, twisty, narrow, shitty pavement,. even managing to dodge a large snake in the middle of a curve. I was fourth in the group behind Gary, and there were times when he and I were working hard to keep up. It was a truly humbling experience which reminded me not to judge riders until I see them in action (you’d think I’d have learned this by now, especially after having ridden with this club for a minute now.)
We ended the fun romp portion of the ride in a dreary, smelly oil field, regrouped, and headed for the barn.
Sunday’s dinner was utterly fantastic at Novo, a slightly upscale place right on a verdant creek. The setting, the food, the beer, the wine, and the craft soda were all mind-bendingly good, and I came away with a new top-ten wine: Turley’s 2016 Zinfandel.
Sunday night was… rough. While two neighbors had left, a new arrival brought a very large, very barky dog they were not inclined to make stop barking. Coyotes yipped and howled through the wee hours, which made the dog bark even harder. I mentioned in a previous piece how I am rendered completely useless by anything itchy – I’ll scratch a mosquito bite to the bone to trade pain for itch any day. When I first moved to SD, Chuck H. reminded me “the desert is very alive at night,” with anything from scorpions to tarantulas that might like to hide in boots, coats, and helmets, so I’m always very careful to protect these things and to keep my tent zipped up tightly.
Despite my precautions, however, some kind of spider managed to find its way into my sleeping bag and bit the absolute shit out of my feet, ankles, and legs during the approximately 15 minutes during which I managed to be asleep. Once the itching set in, it was all over but the crying. All told Sunday night, I got about 45 minutes of sleep in 5-minute chunks. At dawn, I was a train wreck – a miserable, itchy, bleeding, exhausted, shivering train wreck. I knew the day’s route would be a bit challenging and that if I were to go along, I’d be putting myself and the whole group at greater risk due to my mental and physical condition. Weighing out pros and cons, I opted to head for home. I broke camp, packed up, and met the gang at the coffee shop to say goodbye.
Everyone was very kind, and several people offered the use of their room to rest up, but I was all set to get going home. If I needed to stop and catch a few minutes of sleep on the bike at a rest area, so be it. The IronButt Association taught me that sleeping on a parked bike is not only possible but extremely easy if I’m tired enough. On the Butt Lite II back in… 99?… I slept under a bank drive-through in a torrential downpour in Tupelo, at several different rest areas, and, at one desperate point, pulled off to the side of a country two-lane road in the middle of nowhere. The IBA also taught me that, when sleeping in those conditions, it is wise to have an empty .45 holster lying on one’s person as a warning; I’ve never been disturbed by anyone.
Rick kindly schlepped my giant, heavy duffel bag back home for me so I wouldn’t have to contend with that extra weight, and I am extremely grateful for his help.
As I was getting ready to head out, Mike and Marco said they were also leaving, and Marco offered to ride with me. I wasn’t in much of a condition to argue with that kind of offer, so we agreed to head home together. This worked out far better than me riding alone because I would’ve probably just hit the 101 for the duration, which would’ve sucked pretty badly. Instead, Marco treated me to more amazing views and roads. It was a fanTAStic ride home with good company.
We stopped to pee at Pine Mountain in what was not quite The Worst Toilet in Scotland, but came pretty frickin’ close. He asked if I’d be ok stopping for a bit to visit his cousin who was in the hospital. I couldn’t say no to that, so off we headed. I neglected to ask where the hospital was, mind you, and as we began heading into Los Angeles, my heart sank. I hate LA more than is rational – it gives me the equivalent of City and Traffic Claustrophobia. We got to the hospital easily enough (after lane-splitting for a good while,) and had a really nice visit with Kate, his cousin. She is a fascinating woman, and I’m happy to have met her.
After the visit, we were ravenous and went to find some lunch. It was almost 1400 and traffic was picking up. The first parking lot turned us away, as did the second. Getting around town was ponderous and miserable, and after being denied the second time, I pleaded with Marco to just get us out of town. Thankfully, he was just as happy to do that and off we went – lane-splitting for quite some time through heavy assholes.
We ended up in Laguna Beach for lunch at a beautiful Mexican spot right on the water. I learned a lot about Marco’s late wife and his family on both sides – really wonderful, unique stories. Traffic wasn’t pleasant for the remainder of the trip home, but I could smell the barn and knew it would all be over soon. My whole body was vibrating and a bit hyper-reflexive from exhaustion and I was more than ready to take a shower and hit the sack. Marco split off to head toward the Poway area while I continued on to Mission Valley.
On Tuesday, while the main group was riding home, I took the GS up to Escondido for her 12k servicing and to meet Rick to pick up my duffel. Jeff tried to kill me with a broken loaner bike (kidding, kidding – he didn’t know it was on the fritz,) and now that she’s had her valves adjusted, Ember is running even more smoothly than before – man, but I love this bike so much (yes, yes – “thank you, Phil.”)
Wednesday brought a quick group ride with The Mexico Contingent down to Ensenada for ceviche lunch at our favorite MX lunch spot, Sabina’s. I loaned the FJ09 to Kelly, whose bike was unexpectedly out of commission, and we all had a grand time, stuffed ourselves stupidly full of fresh seafood, and enjoyed a leisurely trek back home again. As we neared Mission Valley, the whole area was under a heavy smoke cloud and traffic was utterly fucked. There was a small brush fire right at my exit, so we had to get clever to get home.
After seeing Kelly off, I headed over to BMW of SD to pick up a special order I’d been waiting on for 6 weeks and ran into Edward. “You went to Baja today? Didn’t you get enough riding in this weekend?” What is this, “enough riding” concept of which you speak? Is that something like, “enough cheesecake” or “enough money?”
Every day in San Diego, I am grateful to be here in Motorcycle Paradise. I’m grateful Chuck H. introduced me to this club, and I am grateful you seem not to mind having me around too much. I am truly fortunate – thank you, everyone.
Thank you most especially to Scott and to Rich for this SLO trip; wonderfully planned and executed! I’ll be back.
Heck, I’ll be going back there quite soon to take the missed Monday route – anyone up for a long weekend trip in the coming month? 😀
Everything is unusual until we become accustomed to it.
Last Friday, I “crashed” the GS for the first and second (but assuredly not the last) times.
I don’t want to talk about it.
Who am I kidding? OF COURSE I DO. (Have we even met?)
EDIT: I feel compelled to add a very important thing here; no one forced me to do anything; I went along all roads and trails willingly and I take full responsibility for dropping the bike both times. The fault lies with me, and with no one else.
I have been semi-bitten by the dirt bug – I love the idea of getting out there and thrashing around on trails and such, but before I can do that, I have to… well, learn how to do the basics. I sent a query out to the Let’s Ride list, and a few folks answered the call. Rich advised me to take off my aluminum panniers and provided me with an impressive list of people in the club who’ve had their legs broken by them. I took his advice, though I was “sure that wouldn’t be an issue.” Ha.
I arrived at the designated gas station fairly early, and there were two GS’s already there. Given I didn’t know two of the names who said they were or might be coming, I figured they were the two. I walked up, introduced myself, and said, “so, where do you guys want to go?” They looked at me like I was a crazy person. We very quickly figured out they were not in any way affiliated with the club – derp. We had a good chuckle and shot the shit for awhile.
Rich, Brett, Don, and Juergen did show, and we all aired down to about 25 pounds which seemed insanely low to me, but I deferred to Rich’s expertise. Ember was alarmed – for the duration, a flashing red warning light constantly reminded me she did not approve. We rode over to the entrance to Black Canyon Road following Rich’s lead, and I was happy to run into Scott R. as we did. Easy-peasy, that road, though I’m still not confident enough to keep up with the more accomplished dirt riders, who left me in their (literal) dust. Juergen and I held up the back end of the group, mincing our way along. I was on Anakee 3 tires, which are about 90/10 road/off-road – not great traction in the dirt at all, but better than my Pilot Road 4’s, assuredly. Don was kind to remind me at several points that he and I were working harder because we didn’t have dirt tires.
The Anakee 3’s look like this:
Whereas the TKC 70’s I’ve just mounted as of yesterday are:
I really do hope they make the difference people have told me they will.
We reached a gated turnoff and found the gate open – off we headed down the truck trail. It was a little intimidating at first – I had no idea what sort of bump or rock or gully would be A Problem for the GS, and there were times when I got pulled off-course by sand or gravel or slope and had to go over some shit I definitely would’ve avoided, but man – she took all of it in stride. I’m sure I’ll continue to be wildly impressed.
Once we were on the truck trail, Rich kindly took up the sweep position so Juergen and I would have help if we needed it. About 45 or so minutes after we started our adventure, maybe 20 minutes after getting to the trail, we took our first pit stop. I was whipped and my legs were quaking like the proverbial aspen. I’d been watching some off-roading videos, and they all said to keep my knees bent to help soak up the bumps, so I was. Rich later told me to just keep my legs straight and let the ridiculously good GS suspension do the hard work unless the bump was really awful. Had I known this when we started off, I’d have been in much better condition as time passed. As it stood, or rather, as it tried to stand, I was, as one of my Texas buddies, Allen, would say, “tahrd.” Not just “tired,” but tahrd. Cooked. I felt like I’d spent the last hour doing squats… which, I suppose, I essentially had been. It was hot, but not super hot, and I was sweating like a mofo.
After taking a short break, we pushed onward. We reached a fork in the road where the leaders had graciously paused to let us catch up. Rich wanted me to do some dirt-based practice – standing up and turning in a tight circle. In front of everyone? Oh, gosh. Ok. I wobbled around in a few circles, sitting at first, then standing. I was so tired, though, I didn’t want to generate any more lactic acid than absolutely necessary. After practice, some of the group headed for home, which I also probably should’ve done given how exhausted my legs were.
But no. Of course I did not, because I didn’t want to miss out on the fun ahead. Mistake number one.
The next section of trail was about at the limit of my skills when I’m this out of shape and already struggling with muscle fatigue. I was so disappointed that the GoPro overheated and shut off for that section because I kind of felt like a badass afterward… a graceless, slow badass, but a badass nonetheless. That was mistake number two – hubris, baby.
After a small eternity, we reached another stopping point. Brett carried on to the end of the trail, but I opted to stay behind and rest for a bit. Rich was kind enough to hang out with me, and we soon turned around and headed back down the trail – we knew Brett would catch up. 😀
Rich is a fantastic dirt rider, and wanted me to do some skills practice. I don’t think I managed to adequately convey how very, very tired and made-of-Jell-O my legs were. I opted to pass on his “find the tipping point hitting the brake and the throttle at the same time,” drill and will save that for another day. We did do some emergency stopping, however, so I could try to get used to that feeling. The first few went well, but then… then, I slammed on the brakes and discovered my right foot couldn’t touch the ground – I’d stopped over a small gully on that side. WHAM! Over we went. Hard. Past horizontal, too. I didn’t realize how hard a hit it was until I watched the video – wow. I suspect that’s what knocked my gaskets out of alignment, rather than the second incident a few minutes later.
Rich came back and we got the bike back to a “normal” dropped angle. He offered to lift it for me, and did – thank goodness, because I know my legs would’ve crumbled into dust. The paracord wrap on my crashbar didn’t seem any worse for wear. 😀 I learned repeatedly pressing the keyless ride button does not kill the engine, so the bike ran for longer than I would’ve liked on its side. Foo.
When I first got the GS, Dr. Tom had told me I should just go out and throw the bike down once to get that first damage “out of the way.” I politely passed, but I must admit that once I had that first damage done, I gave far fewer fucks about subsequent accidents. I was tired, I was getting a little hangry, and I was ready to head for home. I felt a little too cocky, and went a little too fast, and paid the price for it.
The new prevailing theory is that I crashed because there was a sand monster lying in wait for me. Shown here as we hit the ground – it has a gaping maw and scary eye, and you can see my helmet in the top right corner.
Everything was going just fine until I hit some fairly deep sand in a right-hand curve. When I realized what was happening, it was too late – the bike was on the ground faster than I could react. I remember very distinctly flying a short way through the air saying, “oh bugger,” as if I were suddenly British. Upon landing, I felt a small “pop!” in my right shoulder, which squarely absorbed all of the impact. “Oh, bugger indeed,” I mused, thinking I’d broken my clavicle or torn my rotator cuff. Both of my parents have torn their cuffs and said it was the most excruciating recovery of their lives. And it was a long recovery, too. Fuck. Noooo! Incidentally, Rich may have saved me the trouble of a broken leg by having me remove the hard cases – this was exactly the scenario he had described to me. Thanks, Rich!
Rich and Brett weren’t too far behind me. They got the bike up, and I said we needed to get going Right Now before this shoulder becomes A Very Big Problem. It felt like a very long ride to pavement and I took it very easy. Each time I had to move my right arm, agony, which increased every so often. Shoulders are complicated joints. In my head, I was negotiating the injury with the universe – “ok, a fractured clavicle over a rotator cuff, please. I can handle a bone break, that’s easy. Just don’t let it be the rotator cuff!”
We reached civilization and pulled off to the side of the road. Rich asked me what my plans were, and I said I was taking myself right to the emergency room on the way home. “Who are you going to call?” he asked.
“Oh, no one – I’ll just take care of everything myself, and if I need someone to get the bike from the hospital for me, I’m sure a few folks would help out.”
“But who are you going to call?”
I paused. “… I guess I’m not sure I understand what you’re asking…”
I’m an only child. A polite, Midwestern, only child, who assumes she can take everything on by herself. I hate inconveniencing people. I am not overly fond of asking for help. Rich assured me he had inconvenienced people in far greater ways, and offered to escort me to the ER in Escondido, and then to help with the bike. What a guy! I followed him to Palomar Health, a very nice facility. I’d guess from the point of impact to the time we arrived was perhaps two and a half hours.
To a person, everyone at the hospital was incredibly kind and friendly. There was a lot of laughing and joking around, and when they asked me my pain level and I said, “oh, about a 7,” the nurse said, “Oh, honey, no no – 10 is high, 1 is low.” “Right, I’m going to stick with a 7, because this bitch hurts. A lot. But acting like a jerk and being grouchy about it isn’t going to help anyone – don’t let the jokes fool you, I’m definitely not ok.” They offered pain meds, which I declined.
For me, “a high tolerance for something” (in this case, “pain,”) doesn’t mean you don’t feel the thing – it means you feel it, but it doesn’t affect you as much as it might another person. I have a high pain tolerance, but an insanely low itch or tickle tolerance. A mosquito bite that a normal person might be able to ignore will drive me insane. Being tickled in certain spots makes me very, very angry and uncomfortable. I am basically incapacitated by a minor case of poison ivy, but hell, slam my finger in a door and I’m going to giggle through the tears and carry on. They palpated, saying it felt more like an AC issue than a rotator cuff or broken clavicle, and popped me into a sling.
We waited for perhaps an hour for me to be taken to radiology, where a very sweet radiology student named Kimmy was my caretaker. Kimmy informed me I had to take off my bra. Ooooh, boy. That was not possible given I couldn’t move my arm much anymore. I mentioned previously it was hot, and that I was sweaty. Three or four hours had not improved that condition any. Oh, Kimmy… I’m so, so sorry. Maybe I could just leave now, rather than ask for help?
I apologized profusely and said I was going to need help. Unfazed, Kimmy dove into the sweaty miasma that was my back and between the two of us, managed to wrangle it off. Because Kimmy was new, we had to redo several films, and then she brought out two bags of sand. I was to hold one in each hand while they took the next set of images to diagnose a possible AC tear/separation. Each bag weighed about 15 pounds. It was their turn to apologize because this was not going to be any fun for me.
Fortunately, those didn’t have to be redone, and that completed our tasks. Kimmy, herself sporting rather large breasts, asked if I were comfortable going without my bra. I looked into her eyes for a moment, and we both burst into laughter. “Comfortable” without a bra. Mmhm. Sure. Just get prepped for all the passers-by who will have black eyes as I walk past. Fortunately, I was wearing one of those HeatOut shirts that are fairly tight, clingy, and supportive, so the girls were less unruly than they might have otherwise been. I opted to forego having Kimmy deal with all the eDar sweat again, and just went without, comfortable or not, though I did keep my arms self-consciously crossed most of the time, and the sling helped.
Perhaps a half hour later, the radiologist came out to chat with me. He was probably about my age, super jovial, and a former rider himself. “You’re not 20 anymore, Erin,” he joked, and a small, sensitive part of me wanted to punch him right in the mouth hole for reminding me. Instead, I laughed. We proceeded to talk about the accident, and he said the R1200GS was an amazing machine, but far too big and too heavy for off-road. I told him that was a lengthy discussion for another time, but that I had about 50 friends who would disagree vociferously.
It took longer to be discharged than anything else, and I lamented all the riding I might be missing out on for awhile. “What am I going to do with my weekends,” I mused. “I know! I’ll do some snorkeling!” Wrong. I am not terribly bright – no, there would be no snorkeling, because that requires even more movement and joint stress than riding does. I supposed I could read. Or write. Or … something.
Rich and his lovely bride, Deb, loaded the GS into their truck and drove me home through rush-hour traffic, for which I was very, very grateful. It was as I was getting myself into the truck I noticed the oil leaking from the right valve cover. Shit. Yep, something was definitely not ok.
That first night was rough. Every time I moved, agony. Not much sleep was had, and I did end up taking a Norco I’d had from the year prior, when I ruptured my S1/L5 vertebral disk and had sciatica the likes of which I could barely stand.
Saturday, however… so much better! Vastly improved. Not good enough to ride, but I could function. In 2005, thanks to a freak alpaca incident, I was without the use of my left hand for about a year and a half.
That is a very, very long time to be at half-capacity for hands. I had to learn all kinds of coping strategies – How2Pants, How2GroceryCart, How2Shower, How2OpenJars, and so on. Not any fun whatsoever.
And that was my non-dominant hand. This was my right arm – might be a bit more difficult.
I dutifully wore my sling all day long, including to Saturday morning breakfast at Palomino’s with the gang. My dearest Phil did a lovely job of alllllmost not saying “I told you so,” and gave me a referral to his excellent osteopath. I can’t get in until the 23rd, but I hope they’ll be able to do an MRI that same day to check for soft tissue damage.
After breakfast, I ran some errands and found myself near a Rite Aid that I haven’t used before. Since I was there, I figured I’d fill my Norco and mega-Ibuprofen scripts there. They had my address from 2005 on file, which seemed strange. They also didn’t have any valid insurance information they could find, which seemed odd, given my Rite Aid has that. The scripts were from “out of the area” (20 minutes away?) so they don’t normally fill those kinds of controlled substance scripts. The pharmacist’s assistant kept looking at me sideways, and I’m sure she thought I was drug-seeking.
Not to downplay the opioid epidemic, but come on: The best I could hope for was, “WOOOOO! I FEEL A LITTLE DROWSY!!!”
Fine. I’ll just go back to my own Rite Aid. They filled them without question, and I keep forgetting to go get them.
Sunday morning, I felt able to ride, so I did. I stayed toward the back of the New Member Ride group, and dutifully took it easy. My right boot was absolutely covered with oil by the end.
Monday, I was able to shoot some pool. Tuesday, things were a bit sorer. Today, Wednesday, things seem to have plateaued, so I’m looking forward to seeing the doctor Monday. It feels very much like an AC issue at this point, given where the pain is.
I had the bike fixed yesterday – both valve cover gaskets and an hour of labor. Could’ve been worse!
My first look at Ember’s innards.
All in all, I feel very lucky, and will not be deterred from doing more dirt. I also had a set of TKC 70’s mounted yesterday, and I am absolutely dying to see how different they feel off-pavement… but I know it would be stupid to risk reinjuring the same site. Maybe I’ll just go find a nice, flat dirt road somewhere. Or maybe… I could just be patient.
AAAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. I couldn’t even type that with a straight face.
Now I’m off to pick up the headlight guard that’s just come in, because I can’t just ride up to the dealership once in any given week, no; it’s a three- or four-times-a-week gig for me. Luckily, I adore the staff and they tolerate me. 🙂
I had promised the FJ I’d take her out Saturday, but then couldn’t leave the GS at home for the club ride. Thus, I was saddled with the task of going for another ride when I got home – darn.
The day was young, barely after 13:00, when I set out. I didn’t feel like going North, so I hit the 8 East and bombed over to the Sunrise Highway which gave me a chance to get used to this bike again before hitting the twisties.
Holy crap I had forgotten how fast this thing is – it’s a much rawer motorcycling experience than the GS. With the GS, I feel connected to the bike; with the FJ, I feel connected to the road. Both experiences of course have their charms: The BMW is more refined (granted, I’m running in ROAD mode with hard suspension, not DYNA with hard – yet,) more comfortable, and more capable in adverse conditions, while the FJ is faster, lighter, nimbler, and more powerful. Did I mention “faster?” Holy. Shit.
The FJ also has some electronic modes – A, Standard, and B. I initially remembered which setting was “whee mode” and which was “rain mode” by thinking “A = Asshole/Aggressive, B = Boring.” Typically, I’ve kept it in Standard, because that’s a very nice middle ground, and would occasionally foray into Asshole Mode. Saturday, I went with Asshole. Whee!
When I first bought the FJ, it seemed so tall: My feet weren’t planted as firmly on the ground as with other bikes, and that was disconcerting. This seems so adorable now – my heels are able to touch the ground while fully and comfortably seated on the FJ, and this bike weighs 465 pounds – wet. Once I get ahold of Abe to have the GS saddle cut down a bit, this will be less of an issue, though.
While my ischial tuberosities were relatively unamused after about an hour, my adrenaline-soaked brain was purring.
Traffic was light, winds were reasonably calm, and the afternoon was just as perfect as the morning. Sixty-ish degrees at the top of Laguna.
You’ll be seeing the FJ on club rides again…. once I’m no longer on my honeymoon.
I’m of course pissed at you because you have caused trauma and stress to people (particularly women) around you, but I’m also selfishly pissed that I (and the rest of the world) will be deprived of your unique humor and wit because you literally could not keep it in your pants appropriately.
Am I surprised? No. Hell, no. Anyone who has listened to your material understands your obsession with masturbation, and how you weirdly sexualize things like newscasters saying “Libya.” Thus, “surprised” is not on my list of emotions. What is?
“Disappointed” tops my list. It is followed by “sad” and “angry” and a whole host of other feelings, but I am selfishly disappointed in no small part due to the fact that I’m probably not going to get to hear new Louis CK material for a very long time, at least not outside trying to recover from this series of stupid, unthinking, even-more-selfish incidents.
Let me tell you about our one-sided history together: I have watched “Live at the Beacon Theater” (sometimes just having it on in the background) several times a month for the last six years; I’ve watched and rewatched “Louie;” I have quoted you and posted clips of my favorite Louis CK bits all over hell and gone whenever even remotely relevant. Some are embedded in my blog posts.
I can’t say I’m your biggest fan because that’s silly, but I was a pretty damn big fan. I’m not a “fan” kind of person, either: I’m not generally possessed of a desire to meet celebrities (other than a brief series of childhood fantasies about living with The Fonz and sleeping in the same bed with him – I was five at the time, so I didn’t even know what that was about,) and I don’t get starstruck often. But you? I thought you’d be amazing to sit around and hang out with. I’ve wanted to talk to you about your experiences, ask questions about some of your material. Sure, I knew you’d have less than zero interest in doing so, but that didn’t much matter. There was this tiny little voice in my head sheepishly saying, “maybe we could be friends.” That probably would have been a disaster, much like your “maybe something nice will happen [on a date]” – straight into the shitter.
Not only did you nail the comedy, but you also reached deeply into uncomfortable topics, into awkward situations (typically where you were the subject, but not always,) and you offered poignant insights into the overall human condition that not a lot of other people would even touch. I fucking miss that, man. There were some moments in “Louie” when I literally had to avert my eyes to tone down the mortification factor. The woman who broke down crying about her daddy in the middle of sex? Yeah.
We’re of a similar age, and I am also divorced/single/alone, so I related to a metric honkload of your material in that groove. In the pilot with Chelsea Peretti? Holy shit, dude, I wanted to claw my eyes out and slither under the floor at each inept pass. I don’t think that could have been any more awkward unless you… oh. I was going to say, “unless you actually took out your cock and started masturbating on the bench,” but that’s just a little too on the nose now, isn’t it?
There is a less-selfish disappointment, too, one not born of “but now I can’t get my Louis CK fix!”
I really thought you were one of the good guys.
Truly. I thought you were self-aware enough not to be That Guy. I thought, based on some of your comedy bits and show dialogue that you really Got It, that you understood women have a shitty, terrible time out there in some respects, and that you wouldn’t perpetuate that kind of bullshit yourself. To be fair, from what I understand, these incidents happened years ago, and maybe you’ve been working to atone for them. I dunno. That matters, but it matters less than you might think.
Your issued statement takes a fair amount of responsibility, at least. It’s heartening to know you understand why what you did was wrong – maybe you are just parroting what you’ve been reading in the #MeToo movement, but it at least sounds genuinely remorseful (if a bit defensive, but in your situation, it’s really hard to be utterly gracious and humble; of course you want to try to defend yourself to a degree. It’s an embarrassing, shitty predicament you’ve put yourself in with huge ramifications. I have no idea if I’d be able to handle it myself.)
When Al Franken’s photo came out, I started a blog post about all of this and couldn’t ever publish it – this recent surge of allegations and reactions is a complicated phenomenon on so many levels, it’s damn near impossible to discuss honestly without sounding like a.) an apologist for predators, b.) an obsessive feminist or vitcim, or c.) an ignorant, indifferent passer-by. I have questions about what the right and wrong repercussions are for men (like you) who have committed these acts. Asking those questions makes me sound like one of the three types above. Not that anyone on the internet would ever conceivably jump down anyone else’s throat, mind you, especially when discussing a hot topic such as sexual predation… oh, wait.
When I think about this, I don’t think about it in terms of “I, too, am a sexual abuse annd assault survivor who gets harassed often.” I am (one incident is described here,) but that’s not the overriding thought in my lobes – the predominant mantra is a toddler-esque “but it’s not faaaaaiiirrrrr” followed by catching myself (literally several times on any given day) thinking about material that’s somehow relevant to the moment at hand. Fuck, that sounds obsessive and stalkery, which I don’t think I am: Some people think about “Star Wars” as it relates to their lives, some people think about “Lord of the Rings,” others think about “The Wire” (the poor bastards;) it’s all about what and who we relate to. Me, I relate to motorcycles, [insert long list of boring things no one wants to hear about,] and you. Irrespective of whether either one of us likes it, you’re in my head, man. From what I can tell, we have a lot in common. Yayyyyy. <sigh>
That’s about all I’ve got right now, Louis. These thoughts have been bumping around in my head for months now, and I had to get them out in whatever inept form they took. I know there is an approximately zero percent chance you’ll ever see this, but, while I’d like for you to see it, it was more important for me just to clear my head.
Like many moto clubs, we have a series of roads we often ride and often default to when we don’t have anything else in mind. For us, that typically means Highland Valley Road (HVR,) Old Julian Highway (OJH,) Palomar Mountain, and various other roads in that area. We know these roads well and travel them frequently.
Yesterday, I took a lot of our usual roads in an unusual manner – in my car. For the first time ever.
My dad and step-mom, Janet, are visiting for a few days, and I wanted to take them out sight-seeing. Motorcycles not being an option, we piled into my Maxima and struck out toward Palomar Mountain as our first stop. The road out to Palomar is, in itself, a good time with light traffic. We enjoyed the gorgeous, day with its blue skies as the sun shone down on the mountains and valleys around us, and then began the trek up South Grade.
I love my car – it’s fun to drive, though I’ve not done that very much since arriving here in San Diego; I put more miles on it yesterday than I have the entire time I’ve been here. The Maxima is a wonderful platform – other than the CVT (which is above-average as CVTs go,) I have no complaints about it. The interior wraps around the driver, the engine sounds great and performs well, and it grips the road insanely well. As any bird or any passionate motorcycle rider will tell you, however, a gilded cage is still a cage. I missed the wind in my face, the elevation of being on a bike, the leaning and rolling, the sense of adventure. However, showing my family some of my favorite places was well worth the tradeoff.
Going up South Grade, I made sure to keep a very sedate pace to prevent alarm or motion sickness in my passengers. The visibility was fantastic, and, as we reached the top and began down East Grade, we pulled over for a photo opportunity and took in the view.
Click for panoramic view.
We admired the houses we could see and were envious of their general living conditions. I suffered having my photo taken with my dad, too:
Turnabout is fair play, Janet:
As we cruised down East Grade, I pointed out the place where my FZ1 met her untimely near-demise, and then we stopped at the vista point overlooking Lake Henshaw. As we got out of the car, we heard this crazy WHUMPING noise nearby. Peeking over the edge of the viewing platform, we saw a highly skilled helicopter pilot helping a crew set a new power pole below us with a Karman K-Max – The intermeshing rotors on those things always blow my mind. Winds were very strong, so we were really impressed with his or her skills. They were at the edge of my phone camera’s digital zoom, so photos weren’t very good.
After a few minutes, the pole was set, and they flew back to pick up another. This crew has been really busy around the valley since 2016, running power from the new substation.
My step-mom has always wanted to see the Salton Sea, which worked well – I really wanted to show them the views from Montezuma on the way out to Borrego Springs, and also to take them to Kesling’s Kitchen for lunch. It was well worth the time – the views were, as ever, beautiful.
Click for panoramic view.
Janet has now seen the Salton Sea from a safe, non-stinky distance, and I got to share some of my favorite roads, views, and places with Dad and her. We needed to get back to their hotel to let their two tiny, crazy, adorable, trying dogs out, so a nice drive on Banner Grade through Cuyamaca and back down to the 8 just in time to have a near-miss with rush-hour traffic. We stopped for pie at Lake Cuyamaca, and as we were leaving, a fire truck went by, sirens a-blaring. A few miles down the road, we saw a Harley had run wide on a sanded curve and was lying up against the ridge on the outside of the road. All people seemed to be up and moving, thankfully, but anyone taking the 79 through that area should use major caution – the road is decidedly unfun right now.
I received some excellent suggestions from folks – thanks! This was so much fun to put together.
This list is so varied in genre; I typically don’t seek country music out, but there are some seriously rockin’ country songs here. Some of us might be disposed to skip over a song that starts out sounding like something we’re not interested in; I’d gently and humbly ask you to give these a go as much as you can – sometimes the whole ride can change with a different tune. Hate classical? Give it just a minute – for us? Loathe country? See if it fits with the landscape around you. A significant number of my now-favorite songs are things I’d never have given a listen if someone I respected hadn’t suggested them.
Our list starts out with the song I always begin every ride with – “Where is My Mind,” an old Pixies favorite remixed by a current favorite DJ, Bassnectar.
There will be some musical whiplash in here, especially if you hit “shuffle” (Marilyn Manson to Mel Torme? Sure!) but it’s all good stuff. I spent a few hours trying to make it all flow, but that was a rough row to hoe.
If you have a Google Play account, you should be able to use this link:
If you don’t have a Google Play account, you likely won’t be able to play the list, but you can see it and hear samples. This tool might be able to convert copied/pasted text to a format that will work for various other music apps out there:
Names are next to the songs the individual contributed, “anonymous” means it was submitted (oddly enough) anonymously, and if there is no name or anonymous next to a track, that’s mine. There are a bunch of mine – I integrated everyone’s suggestions into my previously-existing list. :sunglasses:
If you contributed and want to leave a note about why you suggested the songs you did, please feel free to comment.
1.) Download music to your device.
2.) Hit play.
3.) Hit the road.
4.) Get a different take on your usual roads.
List and Contributors:
Bassnectar Pixies – Where is My Mind?
AC/DC – Big Balls – Chris H.
Eelke Kleijn – Mistakes I’ve Made (Radio Edit)
Gramatik – Bring It Fast
Led Zeppelin – Immigrant Song – Anonymous
Glenn Miller – In the Mood – Fulton M.
Dave Alvin – Harlan County Line
Lamb of God – Redneck – Anonymous
KMFDM – Juke Joint Jezebel
Garbage – #1 Crush
Van Morrison – Moondance – Tom R.
Anuhea – Higher Than the Clouds – Lynne R.
Brandi Carlile – Hard Way Home – Lynne R.
Tom Cochrane – Life Is a Highway – Anonymous
Soccer Mommy – Your Dog – Bob S.
James Brown – Get Up (I Feel Like Being A) Sex Machine (Pt. 1 & 2)
LINKIN PARK x STEVE AOKI – A LIGHT THAT NEVER COMES
Devin Townsend Project – Addicted!
Marilyn Manson – I Put A Spell On You
Dwight Yoakam – A Thousand Miles From Nowhere (Remastered Version) – Lynne R.
Lilly Wood & The Prick and Robin Schulz – Prayer In C (Robin Schulz Radio Edit)
Whether a bike has a name is not related to whether I especially like it; take, for example, the 1997 1200 Bandit – one of my most favorite bikes ever, but it never chose a name. See also the damnable K100RS. That bike and I fought tooth and nail from Day One, but she named herself almost immediately. It is still a mystery to me how I completed my Bun Burner Gold astride it. I suppose I should chalk that success up to the Russell Day Long Saddle and call it good.
My beloved FZ1 never chose a name and had some gender identity issues. The FJ09, same.
The FJ and I had a bumpy start in large part due to the absolute crap stock tires. Many times now, I’ve said those tires were like having sex with 4 condoms on: You know something is going on down there, but you’ve got no real idea what. I couldn’t stick securely to the pavement, let alone feel what road conditions were like.
Having spent quite a few years on the phenomenal Pilot Road and Pilot Power series, this was extremely unsettling and I didn’t trust the grip. That, coupled with the extremely sensitive fly-by-wire throttle, coupled further with the almost-too-tall saddle height, and it was a recipe for unease. The upright seating position was super weird for me, too, and even the bars and grips fought me – both hands became very numb after about 15-20 minutes for the first several weeks I rode. The saddle is like a plank, but it’s comfortable for a good 4-5 hours before my behind really starts getting antsy.
It was not, shall we say, “love at first sight.” However, I’d done my research, and I sensed its potential, so I signed the papers a few days before Chuck, Lorraine, and I left for our Gerlach, NV trip. Do I regret that decision now? Maybe. However, finances aside, the FJ did a great job prepping me for the GS – had I leapt directly from the FZ to the GS, I might have been wholly unprepared.
Still a damn fine platform.
Eventually, the FJ and I reached a state of reasonable detente: I loved its performance, but disliked a small but significant number of items. Then, about 10,000 miles in, I replaced the stock Sportmax tires with my preferred PR 4’s, and holy wow, what a difference. The whole way home from the dealership after having them mounted, I was wondering, “what the hell is that feeling?” Most of the way home, I realized, “Oh – that’s The Road, the thing I’ve been missing for 10k miles.”
My confidence soared, my cornering improved, and I was able to keep up with some of my favorite riding partners. Finally. It was like remembering how to ride after having been in a six-month haze.
Despite this much-improved situation, the FJ was (and is) limited to the pavement for all intents and purposes. She does not much care for dirt, much less gravel or mud or large bumps. My eye began to wander, and my BMW Owners Club of San Diego cohorts were only too happy to begin selling me on a BMW R1200GS as The Perfect Mount.
I’d estimate 80% of this club rides a GS. I don’t like “fitting in” and doing what all the cool kids are doing, so I wasn’t initially at all interested in saddling up to look like everyone else. However. Years ago, I learned that sometimes, when something is really popular, it’s not just trendy – sometimes, it’s actually an amazing product.
I resisted, and hard. The last (and only) time I rode a GS was back in 1999, and I found it far too tall, too heavy, and entirely “meh.” I was a sport-touring rider – I wanted a sportbike, and the GS was most definitely not that. Not then. My K1100RS and I were perfectly happy together.
When I began riding with this club, there was a guy on a red Ducati for the first few rides. I remember thinking, “this guy is kind of slow, maybe next time I’ll pop in front of him in line.”
On the next ride, Red Ducati Guy (whose actual name is Phil, now one of my most favorite people around) showed up on his R1200GS and absolutely killed it. I couldn’t have kept up with him if I tried. My mind was blown – what in the actual hell? The GS was bigger, heavier, had ADV tires on it, and seemed an unlikely candidate for that kind of performance.
Boy howdy, was I ever misinformed.
Damn near everyone in this club who is at the front of the pack rides a GS, and there are several metric honkloads of reasons why, all of which can be summed up thusly: They’re fucking amazing. In every way.
They are also, of course, somewhat spendy for the newer models. I still wasn’t ready to entertain it as a bike for me.
Fast-forward several months, during which time my friends were exceptionally… “helpful”… in guiding me toward a GS. Phil was especially relentless – it seemed like not 10 minutes went by without a reminder.
All this talking got me to the point where I was willing to at least give one a test ride. Our former club President, Edward, conveniently works at the local BMW shop. I went in looking for a lowered GS, thinking that would probably be the only model I could conceivably keep afloat. Edward, a master salesman, calmly helped me to realize that a standard GS with the seat in the low position would probably be workable.
And it was.
Off I went on a test ride – standard GS, low seat position. After about 45 minutes in rush-hour traffic, I headed back to the barn: Everyone was right. The GS is a superlative platform, and I was pretty comfortable on the standard version. Edward, bless his soul, gets a fair share of the credit for winning me over.
The bike that started it all: The first modern-era GS I’d ridden. Standard height, low saddle.
That price tag, though. It was north of $15k, which was about $5k more than I ideally wanted to spend. I told him I’d have to think on it and do some math.
The following weekend, Phil & Mike Mc. helpfully escorted me up to the other local-ish BMW shop in Escondido, where they had not one, not two, but four lowered GS’s on the premises. I immediately found the one I liked best – a 2016 Triple Black with 5500 miles, crash bars, heated grips, and other assorted fineries. Phil led me on a supremely fun test ride that lasted perhaps a half hour. My feet look flat-footed when I’m on this bike, but in truth they’re not quite all the way down. My boot soles may be fully on the ground, by my heel inside the boot is about a half-inch off the insole. Still, I am reasonably stable.
This bike had so many enticing features in addition to the above: Cruise control, spoked wheels, dark smoke screen, newer ADV-type tires, hard bags (which will soon be swapped out with my existing Givis,)
That was the bike. That was the one. It was also $18k – no way. Rudy, the excellent sales guy I was working with, ran some numbers on financing with me, and they just weren’t appealing at all. I told him I had to pass, waved goodbye to that bike (which would surely be snapped up immediately after I left,) and went on about my life.
Visions of that bike literally kept me awake at night. It haunted me. I couldn’t fall asleep. If I woke up in the middle of the night, my brain immediately latched right back onto it. NO, I kept telling myself – you’re in enough financial hot water as it stands, missy, let’s not compound matters. Ok? Ok.
Phil seized upon this bike almost as much as I did. When I got home, this was waiting for me:
He was relentless, spamming me with memes of his dogs (truly, the lowest of the low:)
Greg was also an enthusiastic contributor, dropping helpful links on my Facebook wall for me to consider.
A week went by, and the bike had not sold. I remained resolute – it just wasn’t meant to be.
I received a very nice tax return that would’ve covered half the bike. NOPE, pay down credit cards. Ok, pay down the cards and buy some farkles for the FJ.
Shortly thereafter, I got a modest raise at work that would cover the payment almost exactly. Shit. Nope, nope, nope – pay down the credit cards!
I would check the website daily… maybe a few times daily… to see if it had sold. Nope, still there.
Then, last Saturday morning, I woke up and they had dropped the price by $1,000. It was a fairly miserable, rainy day and no one in the club wanted to ride after breakfast save David. He was amenable to riding up to the dealership via back roads to see what was up with the bike.
Up we went. I don’t like riding in the rain, especially out here where the roads don’t get rained on very often. The oil and other build-up on the pavement is treacherous, not to mention all the detritus on the road from the adjacent landscape: Sand, mud, rocks, you name it.
We arrived, and there she was. I said hello and looked her over before going to find Rudy. “If you can do $16k out the door, I’ll buy it right now,” was my initial offer. He chuckled a bit and started working numbers.
Soon thereafter, Phil wandered in, an expectant grin on his face. He was there to get an intercom system installed on his wife’s helmet, but he was pretty excited about this new bike prospect, too.
Rudy was able to drop the price down to $16,250 – nice. However, that left a nasty sales tax and registration fee to deal with. Out the door, about $17,600. Whuff.
I had to think long and hard about this.
As I was contemplating, Scott R. showed up. Then Tony C. I felt like the club was crawling out of the woodwork to bear witness.
After talking with my bank, getting Rudy to match their interest rate, and a lot of hand-wringing… I took the leap.
I signed the papers.
I now own a drop-dead gorgeous, practically new, factory-lowered 2016 R1200GS Triple Black.
Phil might have been almost as thrilled about this as I am – that grin lit up the surrounding six counties. Pictured below, a trace of that grin as he looks upon his GS, my GS, and Gary A.’s GS, all in a pretty row at Cameron Corners.
Putting a grin on Phil’s face was almost as much fun as getting the bike.
After receiving many high-fives and congratulations, I mounted up and Dave led me home. I had asked him to take it easy, given the solid rain going on. As it turns out, that wasn’t even remotely necessary – the bike didn’t seem to notice anything out of the ordinary and just stuck smoothly to the road. Two-thirds of the way back, I told Dave I didn’t want to stop riding.
Here’s the email I wrote when I got home:
The end of one era, the beginning of another
erin darling Mar 10 to BMW Chatter
A girl can only hold out for so long when the universe jumps up and down trying to get her attention.
That I lasted as long as I did is a minor miracle, but as of about noon today, I capitulated and bought the triple black GS, much to the delight of all parties present. It started out with only Dave and me, but then out of the woodwork there suddenly was Phil. And then Scott R. And then Tony C.
Many grins, many high-fives. Phil now has to find something else to torment me with – I am confident it will take him about 8 nanoseconds to come up with something utterly demonic.
This bike, though.
I didn’t want to go home, despite the persistent and often enthusiastic rain: I’m not sure the bike even realized the roads were wet. A kazillion raindrops needling into my face couldn’t put a dent in my grin.
Today, Derek rode the FZ1 to Gio’s and I handed over the last of the paperwork – she’s gone. Goodbye, dearest heart – you were loved desperately. That era is over for me.
Tomorrow, as we say goodbye to Gio’s and close out yet another chapter, I’ll introduce you to my hot new bride as we embark on our honeymoon. It’ll be a long ride day for me – I’ll start with you guys, do that up, and then head out for whatever distant destination beckons (company welcome, of course.)
Thanks for all the advice, encouragement, and even the harassment – my stubborn side doesn’t let peer pressure get to me, but I couldn’t stand all the arrows pointing more and more brightly to this bike.
When I inevitably drop it and can’t pick it up, I will perhaps have a moment’s regret, but then in a bit I’ll be underway and grinning again (unbroken body parts allowing.)
The next morning, I was One of Us. Below, Tony C., with Edward (who is still speaking to me, even) in the background.
It’s a little uncomfortable, frankly, to be riding the same bike most other people are also riding, but I Get It Now. It’s silly to avoid something amazing just to avoid being one of the herd. Some things (oxygen, water, and GS’s) are worth a little herd-hanging.
Phil has already found his next thing to torment me with:
That is Phil’s Ducati. There is an approximately 0% chance of me buying one anytime soon, if ever. NO, REALLY.
Sunday’s ride involved a lot of still-damp pavement, but the bike did not notice or care. I’m not used to ADV-type tires that are designed for on- and off-road use. The tires currently mounted are not aggressive dirt tires at all, but they’re less sporty than I’m accustomed to, and I was initially quite concerned about that.
As we set out, I kept thinking, “I can’t really feel the road,” and the bike kept saying, “let me worry about the road – you just settle in and enjoy the ride. Get used to the shift assist, take in the scenery. I’ve got this.” And so she did.
It is an exercise in trust for us both: She says, “I’m trusting you to use the clutch sometimes, and also not to wrap us around a tree. You can trust me to do the rest. I promise.”
“I’m going to tip you over at some point, you realize… I’m… I’m sorry in advance.”
“Tipping over is okay – let’s just make sure that’s the worst that happens.”
My lack of concern about the lack of pavement sensation was in itself disconcerting, but I quickly got used to it. There is a very noticeable pull toward the outside of the curve at speed – I can definitely feel the low center of gravity pulling down and outside. However, it feels like something that will be easily predictable once I get used to it – it seems like a constant increase in pull related to speed and weight, not a variable one based on whatever.
There was only one vanishingly brief moment on the ride where I felt a little concern – on a road I’d not been on previously, I went into a turn that was sharper than it initially appeared to be and the pavement was seriously uneven. I heeled over, hit a few bumps, felt the rear end slip juuuuust a touch, and then everything was fine and smooth again. A non-event. On the FJ, that might have been Much Badness due to the wallowing after hitting a bump mid-curve.
Those western bits on Highland Valley Road where there are Significant Pavement Anomalies mid-curve? The ones I was always astounded no one seemed to care about? The ones that nearly threw me off the road? Non-issues.
The bike has a feature I initially held in a bit of contempt: “Shift Assist Pro.” This essentially renders the clutch irrelevant for 80-90% of all shifts, and a lot of the club members rave about it. I’ve been using clutches on vehicles since 1985 – “Oh no,” I thought, “having to pull a lever once in awhile – how terrible.” The thing is, though, being able to be lazy (which isn’t all bad in this case) isn’t the only perk; it’s also safer with the assistance. Upshifting takes a fraction of a second and makes acceleration smoother and faster. The real glory, however, is downshifting – especially in a curve, if necessary. Granted, with shift assist downshifting, the throttle should ideally be fully closed, which isn’t where one typically wants to be in a curve (if you’ve got the throttle closed and you’re still going too fast, you’ve made a mistake in judgment of speed and gear selection,) but even with the throttle mostly closed, it’s a really fast, buttery-smooth event that doesn’t fuck with one’s line very much. No wallowing.
I was not ready to be done when the group was, so I hit the 15 and headed back up north to meet with a friend who had recently picked up a bike himself. We cruised over to Borrego Springs at a leisurely pace, enjoying the views along Montezuma. At one point, I had to pull over to the side to let my friend catch up, and in so doing, allllmost dropped it to the right. I caught enough traction and strength to keep her from going over at the last possible second. There is most definitely a lean-angle “Rubicon” point on this machine, and I’m sure I’ll find it sooner rather than later. Thank goodness for the crash bars.
This is the nicest, best-appointed bike I have ever owned. Yesterday, Thursday, I took a couple-few-hour trip around our usual routes. Temperatures varied from 64 down to 49, and on other bikes, numbers south of 62 tend to get me pretty chilled without warm gloves and a down liner in my jacket.
As I was getting a tiny bit chilly, I had a Matrix/”I know kung-fu” moment:
The upper forties required neither my super-warm-even-when-not-plugged-in Widder gloves nor my down liner. It was glorious. On the freeway home, another epiphany:
So this is what having a modern bike is like! Bells! Whistles!! Hand relief! TECHNOLOGY!!
In short, I am bonding with this bike really well. There are moments when I feel like a modern-day cowboy with a beloved horse. I liken Ducatis to Arabian stallions: They are high-strung, expensive, twitchy, and will buck you off if you’re not paying attention. The FJ was nowhere near that level of finicky, but I’d place her at maybe half-Arabian gelding when in “standard” mode. “Standard” is performance-with-manners-oriented. In “aggressive” mode, which I seldom use, it might get bumped up to full-Arabian gelding. Mode A is “holy-shit-hold-on-and-hope.”
The GS? Thoroughbred. Pure elegance, exquisite smoothness underway, a bit on the large side, but capable of doing pretty much anything. It is not a barrel racer, but it is insanely fast and agile for its size and weight. It is not a carriage-pulling Draft Horse, but it has significant low-end power. I’ll keep her in “rain” mode for a bit to get used to all the things, and then we’ll start having some real fun.
What I lack in height I also lack in upper-body strength: I learned yesterday that I cannot get her up on the centerstand, or at least haven’t yet figured out how – even with the suspension on HARD, it’s a non-starter with my lousy back. Given I don’t have a chain to lube (WOOOOO!!) that won’t be a frequent problem, per se, but I would like to be able to throw her up there as needed. I’ll figure it out, likely by putting it onto “two-up with luggage” mode.
Further, what I lack in self-restraint I also lack in common sense: I am not known for my good financial decisions (case in point, this one right here.) I’m a “leap now, look later” sort of person. I have faith things will somehow, some way, work out and that I’ll be ok.
Buying this bike is a leap of faith that I’ll land on my feet. It’s a leap that I’ll develop the skills to keep it upright under emergency conditions if I don’t already have them. It’s a leap, much like entering a blind curve – we trust it’ll be fine, and if it’s not, we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.
Ah, yes – A kazillion words later, I’ve remembered my original point: Names. We’ve tried a few names on for size, bandying them back and forth between us (I know I’m insane, no need to point it out.) She suggested “Sue” at one point, to which I immediately issued a peremptory challenge. No thank you, please.
There are two strong contenders – one more meaningful than the other (but also far less interesting.) Both are very appropriate. We’ll see which she chooses soon.
Mike Mc. and I may not have much in common, but we do share an overwhelming desire to have music playing while we ride. I’ve worn my current rotation thin and was about to put together a new playlist when it occurred to me: I could see what you guys like and build a list from that. I’d get a sense of what you like to listen to when we’re out and about, and will probably get exposure to some things I’ve never heard of.
I’ll happily publish the playlist on Google Play when it’s done.
If you’d like to contribute, please fill in between one and five of your go-to moto-songs, and then indicate whether you want your name to be listed next to the songs or whether you prefer to be anonymous. I’m asking for email addresses in case I have questions or can’t find the material.
If you’ve gotta submit more than 5 tunes, just fill the form out again.