Confidence & Evolution – A Love Letter to BMWOCSD

Dearest BMWOCSD Members –

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.”
“Nope. HARD.”
“Hard ROAD, hard DYNA?”
“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.

BMWOCSD Central Coast Trip 2018

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?”

Regardless.

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? 😀

Videos are here:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC8QTH-NJkam3N2HlA2PLlMA

Photo album here:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/compassionate/sets/72157694941448401

I’ll have photos up later on – right now, there’s a snooker table calling my name and I can’t ignore it any longer.

Well, Shit.

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.

It wasn’t.

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.

At any rate, photographic evidence:

Flickr Album here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/compassionate/albums/72157694950645384

Video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-qNOqZpThFU

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. 🙂

 

 

Back in the FJ Saddle

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.

The Sound of Your Ride, Part Deux

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:

http://bit.ly/bmwocsd

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:

http://www.playlist-converter.net/#/

It was able to find 211 out of 225 songs for a YouTube playlist:

http://bit.ly/bmwocsd-youtube

I signed up for Spotify to create a Spotify-specific list of the tracks it could find (and there’s also a Spotify-formatted list at the bottom of the post.) Sadly, it could only locate 115 of them:

http://bit.ly/bmwocsd-spotify

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.

Instructions:

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:

  1. Bassnectar Pixies – Where is My Mind?
  2. AC/DC – Big Balls – Chris H.
  3. Eelke Kleijn – Mistakes I’ve Made (Radio Edit)
  4. Gramatik – Bring It Fast
  5. Led Zeppelin – Immigrant Song – Anonymous
  6. Glenn Miller – In the Mood – Fulton M.
  7. Dave Alvin – Harlan County Line
  8. Lamb of God – Redneck – Anonymous
  9. KMFDM – Juke Joint Jezebel
  10. Garbage – #1 Crush
  11. Van Morrison – Moondance – Tom R.
  12. Anuhea – Higher Than the Clouds – Lynne R.
  13. Brandi Carlile – Hard Way Home – Lynne R.
  14. Tom Cochrane – Life Is a Highway – Anonymous
  15. Soccer Mommy – Your Dog – Bob S.
  16. James Brown – Get Up (I Feel Like Being A) Sex Machine (Pt. 1 & 2)
  17. LINKIN PARK x STEVE AOKI – A LIGHT THAT NEVER COMES
  18. Devin Townsend Project – Addicted!
  19. Marilyn Manson – I Put A Spell On You
  20. Dwight Yoakam – A Thousand Miles From Nowhere (Remastered Version) – Lynne R.
  21. Lilly Wood & The Prick and Robin Schulz – Prayer In C (Robin Schulz Radio Edit)
  22. Nero – Guilt
  23. Jason Aldean – She’s Country – Anonymous
  24. Bad Livers – Crow Black Chicken
  25. Delta Rae – Bottom Of The River
  26. Commodores – Brick House
  27. Alice In Chains – Them Bones – Mike S.
  28. Pantera – I’m Broken (Remastered Version) – Anonymous
  29. Dirtyphonics & Bassnectar – Watch Out (feat. Ragga Twins)
  30. 4 Non Blondes – What’s Up?
  31. Eric Church – Heard It In A Love Song (Live At Bon Secours Wellness Arena, Greenville, SC / May 6, 2017) – Lynne R.
  32. George Winston – Linus & Lucy – Tom R.
  33. Cherry Poppin’ Daddies – Zoot Suit Riot
  34. Trampled By Turtles – Wait so Long
  35. Eminem – Lose Yourself
  36. Adele – Rolling in the Deep – Anonymous
  37. Mark Ronson – Uptown Funk (feat. Bruno Mars) – Anonymous
  38. Anais – Lo Que Son Las Cosas (Bonus-Reggaeton Version)
  39. Hot Chocolate – You Sexy Thing
  40. Kid Rock – You Never Met A Motherf**ker Quite Like Me – Anonymous
  41. George Winston – Cloudburst – Tom R.
  42. Lacuna Coil – Swamped
  43. Pantera – Cemetery Gates (Remastered Version)
  44. Massive Attack – Inertia Creeps
  45. Gary Allan – Wake Up Screaming
  46. The Soggy Bottom Boys – I Am A Man Of Constant Sorrow (From “O Brother, Where Art Thou” Soundtrack / Radio Station Version) (feat. Dan Tyminski)
  47. Muddy Waters – Mannish Boy
  48. War – Low Rider
  49. Mickey Hart – Island Groove
  50. Andrew Bird – Are You Serious – Tom R.
  51. Rusted Root – Send Me On My Way
  52. Creedence Clearwater Revival – Down On The Corner – Anonymous
  53. Pink Floyd – Not Now John – Tom R.
  54. En Vogue – Free Your Mind
  55. Primus – Tommy The Cat
  56. Snoop Dogg – Who Am I (What’s My Name)?
  57. Gorillaz – Feel Good Inc
  58. The Clash – Train in Vain (Remastered)
  59. Korn – A.D.I.D.A.S.
  60. Ministry – Jesus Built My Hotrod
  61. Disturbed – Land of Confusion
  62. Reverend Horton Heat – Bales Of Cocaine
  63. Johnny Cash – I’ve Been Everywhere
  64. Frank Sinatra – That Old Black Magic (1999 Digital Remaster) – Fulton M.
  65. Israel Kamakawiwoʻole – Take Me Home Country Road
  66. Bad Lip Reading – Bushes of Love – Nick J.
  67. Morcheeba – The Sea
  68. Queen – Bohemian Rhapsody – Chuck H.
  69. Dire Straits – Sultans Of Swing
  70. Enigma – Return to Innocence – Anonymous
  71. Everlast – Black Jesus
  72. Rage Against The Machine – Killing In The Name – Anonymous
  73. Weezer – Hash Pipe
  74. Eurythmics – Would I Lie to You? (Remastered Version) – Anonymous
  75. Steely Dan – Bodhisattva – Chuck H.
  76. The Statler Brothers – Flowers on the Wall
  77. Eric Clapton – Rollin’ & Tumblin’ – Anonymous
  78. Patsy Cline – Walkin’ After Midnight
  79. Israel Kamakawiwoʻole – Somewhere Over the Rainbow / What a Wonderful World
  80. Dusty Springfield – Son of a Preacher Man
  81. Johnny Cash – I Walk The Line – Anonymous
  82. En Vogue – My Lovin’ (You’re Never Gonna Get It)
  83. Us3 – Cantaloop (Flip Fantasia)
  84. Pink Floyd – Have a Cigar
  85. Madonna – Justify My Love – Anonymous
  86. Procol Harum – A Whiter Shade Of Pale – Chuck H.
  87. Tricky – Evolution Revolution Love
  88. AWOLNATION – Sail
  89. Infected Mushroom – Becoming Insane
  90. Weezer – Island In The Sun
  91. Soul Asylum – Sexual Healing – Anonymous
  92. The Rolling Stones – Paint It Black – Anonymous
  93. Kool & The Gang – Jungle Boogie
  94. Die Toten Hosen – Tage wie diese – Juergen S.
  95. Daddy Yankee – Gasolina (Bonus track version)
  96. Toadies – Possum Kingdom
  97. Toby Keith – As Good As I Once Was – Anonymous
  98. Urge Overkill – Girl, You’ll Be a Woman Soon – Anonymous
  99. k.d. lang – Crying [duet w/Roy Orbison] (Remastered) – Chuck H.
  100. Radiohead – Packt Like Sardines in a Crushed Tin Box – Nick J.
  101. The Youngbloods – Darkness, Darkness – Chuck H.
  102. Phil Thornton & Hossam Ramzy – El Moulid
  103. The Smashing Pumpkins – Eye
  104. Live – White, Discussion
  105. Lorde – Green Light – Nick J.
  106. Rick Derringer – Rock and Roll, Hoochie Koo – Anonymous
  107. Guns N’ Roses – Live and Let Die
  108. Roxette – Joyride – Anonymous
  109. EMF – Unbelievable – Anonymous
  110. The Buggles – Video Killed the Radio Star – Scott R.
  111. Sister Machine Gun – Burn
  112. U2 – In God’s Country (Remastered 2007) – Anonymous
  113. Pete Townshend – Let My Love Open the Door (E. Cola mix)
  114. The Beat – Mirror in the Bathroom
  115. Queen & David Bowie – Under Pressure
  116. Jimmy Reed – Hush Hush
  117. The Proclaimers – I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles) – Anonymous
  118. House of Pain – Jump Around – Anonymous
  119. LaBelle – Lady Marmalade
  120. [unknown] – The Diva Megamix
  121. Luis Fonsi – Despacito
  122. Die Toten Hosen – Steh auf, wenn du am Boden bist – Juergen S.
  123. Kay Kyser – Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree – Fulton M.
  124. Cracker – Low
  125. Flux Pavilion – I Can’t Stop
  126. Tomahawk – Red Fox
  127. U2 – Sweetest Thing (The Single Mix)
  128. Leonard Cohen – Waiting for the Miracle
  129. Bruce Springsteen – State Trooper
  130. Lou Reed – This Magic Moment
  131. Smokin’ And Drinkin’, Miranda Lambert, Platinum – Lynne R.
  132. Bonnie Raitt – You Got It – Anonymous
  133. Toby Keith – You Ain’t Leavin’ (Thank God Are Ya) – Anonymous
  134. R.L. Burnside – It’s Bad You Know – Anonymous
  135. The Rivieras – California Sun – Anonymous
  136. Walter Murphy & The Big Apple Band – A Fifth of Beethoven
  137. Billy Idol – White Wedding (Pt. 1)
  138. Rodrigo Y Gabriela – Santo Domingo – Tom R.
  139. The Glitch Mob – We Can Make The World Stop
  140. Beats Antique – Spiderbite
  141. Talking Heads – Sax and Violins
  142. Marilyn Manson – I Put a Spell on You
  143. Black Rebel Motorcycle Club – Beat the Devil’s Tattoo
  144. Nina Simone – Feeling Good (From “The Roar Of The Greasepaint”)
  145. Mel Torme – Putting On The Ritz – Anonymous
  146. Barry White – Can’t Get Enough of Your Love, Babe – Anonymous
  147. Vicki Sue Robinson – Turn the Beat Around – Anonymous
  148. Beat Fatigue – One Flute Over The Cuckoo’s Nest
  149. Kate & Anna McGarrigle – Dig My Grave (feat. Chaim Tannenbaum)
  150. Johnny Nash – I Can See Clearly Now – Anonymous
  151. Mahalia Jackson – Go Tell It To The Mountain – Anonymous
  152. The Honeydogs – Red Dye #40
  153. Rodrigo Y Gabriela – Tamacún – Tom R.
  154. Mark Knopfler – Donegan’s Gone – Tom R.
  155. Tiesto – Zero 76 (Radio Edit)
  156. Motorcycle – As the Rush Come
  157. Bad Livers – Pretty Daughter
  158. Lorde – Royals
  159. Pharrell Williams – Happy
  160. Steve Aoki – Delirious (Boneless) (feat. Kid Ink)
  161. Paul Poulton Project – Mistakes I’ve Made
  162. Merle Haggard – Pretty When It’s New
  163. Pronoun – Run – Bob S.
  164. The Clash – Overpowered by Funk
  165. Butthole Surfers – Whatever (I Had a Dream)
  166. Nitzer Ebb – Fun to Be Had
  167. The Hot Damns – Something Evil (feat. Marc Scibilia)
  168. The Platters – My Prayer – Fulton M.
  169. Metaform – Electric Eyes (Studio Brussels Remix)
  170. The Wind And The Wave – My Mama Said Be Careful Where You Lay Your Head
  171. Audra Mae – The Happiest Lamb
  172. Bach – Suite No. 3 in D, BMV 1068 – 2 Air – Tom R.
  173. Clairy Browne & The Bangin’ Rackettes – Love Letter
  174. The Clovers – One Mint Julep
  175. Sharon Jones and The Dap-Kings – Fish In the Dish
  176. Maroon 5 – Sugar – Anonymous
  177. Neil Diamond – Forever In Blue Jeans
  178. Tove Lo – Habits (Stay High)
  179. Bach – Brandenburg Concerto No. 1 in F Major – Anonymous
  180. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Red Right Hand (2011 Remastered Version)
  181. Mastodon – The Hunter
  182. Three Dog Night – Mama Told Me (Not To Come) – Anonymous
  183. Ella Fitzgerald – Stairway to the Stars – Fulton M.
  184. Budapest Symphony Orchestra – The Valkyrie, WWV 868, Act III; Ride of the Valkyries – Anonymous
  185. Haudegen – Feder der Erinnerung (Der Song zum Buch) – Juergen S.
  186. Bassnectar – Timestretch
  187. Dada Life – Born To Rage (USA Version)
  188. Gramatik – Ass Kickin’ Bass
  189. Muse – Supremacy
  190. Porter Robinson – The State
  191. Rihanna – Cockiness (Love It) – Anonymous
  192. Daft Punk – Harder Better Faster Stronger
  193. Benny Benassi – Cinema (Skrillex Remix) (feat. Gary Go)
  194. Dreweybear – U&I – Nick J.
  195. Men Without Hats – Safety Dance – Scott R.
  196. Kraddy – Android Porn
  197. Gojira – Backbone
  198. Everclear – Local God – Anonymous
  199. Queen of Jeans – More to Love – Bob S.
  200. I’ve Got a Gal in Kalamazoo – Lazlo – Fulton M. (a slightly different version from his suggestion)
  201. Linkin Park (feat. Kiiara) – Heavy – Nick J.
  202. Steve Aoki – I’m In The House (feat. [[[zuper blahq]]])
  203. Knife Party – Rage Valley
  204. Drake – Fear (Album Version Explicit) – Anonymous
  205. Lil Wayne – Drop the World – Nick J.
  206. Preoccupations – Antidote – Bob S.
  207. Gojira – Global Warming
  208. The Trickaz – Dopeness – Nick J.
  209. Paul Van Dyk – Verano (feat. Austin Leeds)
  210. Unworldly – Why the Sky – Nick J.
  211. Kasabian – Fire – Bob S.
  212. Prismo – Senses – Nick J.
  213. Max Pross – In the Woods – Nick J.
  214. Prismo – Heathens – Nick J.
  215. Creaky Jackals – High Tide – Nick J.
  216. San Holo – Lines of the Broken (feat CUT_) – Nick J.
  217. WiDE AWAKE – Ready – Nick J.
  218. Skott – Porcelain (AWAY Remix) – Nick J.
  219. Rostik – One Little Scary Story – Nick J.
  220. Dreweybear – Home – Nick J.
  221. AWOLNATION – Run – Nick J.
  222. Our Wild America – Zero Sum – Nick J.
  223. DVBBS & Borgeous – Tsunami
  224. Velvet Revolver – Slither – Dave T.
  225. Stomp – Ripper’s Sole

For Spotify folks:

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Faith

 

Not all of my bikes have named themselves, but a few have:

1973 CB500 – Lucille
1992 Seca II – Cricket
1992 K100RS – Cicada
1997 K1100RS – Grak
2012 Super Glide Custom – Dahlia

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.

Mostly.

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.

She.

Is.

So.

Fucking.

PERFECT.

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:

Only it’s:

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.

 

The Sound of Your Ride

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.

Thanks!

The resulting playlist was fantastic! See and hear it here: The Sound of Your Ride, Part Deux.

“We’re Not Doing Boulder Creek.”

I began my day by swearing a lot: Cranky customers with unreasonable demands, followed by Motorcycle Shenanigans. Per usual, the latest piece of SW-Motech frippery came with absolute crap instructions. No order of operations, just a bag of bits, a terrible diagram, and a tech writer laughing his ass off somewhere. The instructions were basically, “put this on your bike.” Thanks!

To add insult to virtual injury, I opened my right pannier to discover that, at some point, the liter of water I carry had up-ended and emptied itself and my tool roll had been swimming around and marinating in it for God knows how long. Long enough to grow a nice, healthy amount of rust on the majority of my tools.  I don’t carry many of my Craftsman tools in the roll – that’ll teach me. “Hey, Sears! I ran over this with a steam roller – please give me a new one for free, thanks.”

Ok, Google – how to remove rust from tools?

After an hour and only having to redo things three times, I managed to get the Givi topcase more or less secured to the SW-Motech tail rack. Score. Life is good! Off to Gio’s for the usual Sunday romp. The topcase, despite being the smaller model of the two offered, is Fricking Enormous:

On the plus side, if I do cave and buy the GS, I can live in the topcase since I will be unable to afford my rent.

It was a small turnout for our Sunday ride today – only a pair of Scotts, a couple of Chucks, one Rex, one Mike, one Phil, one Larry, and I set out toward Lyons Valley. In the parking lot at Gio’s, the taller Scott and the Rex laid out our route. “There’s an amazing road leading to Boulder Creek, but we’re not doing Boulder Creek because it’s dirt, so we’ll just do a u-turn.”

Okeydokey! Off we went.

Spoilers: This is us “not doing Boulder Creek.” Thanks to Scott D. for the photos!

Other than a few spots of detritus from the weather here and there, Lyons Valley and environs were in pretty good shape. It was a brisk 44 degrees at times, but the down jacket and my Widder gloves kept me plenty warm. In several places, we could see snow falling a few hundred feet above us, though the sun was generous with us for the duration. Larry, Mike, and one of the Chucks waved off at the 8, while the rest of us carried on, three of us blissfully unaware of what was in store.

I hadn’t been on the roads leading to Boulder Creek before – they were, as promised, Quite Amazing.

We reached the pavement’s end, where Rex and the Scotts dutifully stopped, cognizant of their non-dirt-enthusiast cohorts in tow. Well, the lankier Scott stopped – the ponytailed Scott was too eager to play and plowed ahead until he realized the rest of us had halted and eventually came back for us.

The kinder Scott D. flipped around and came back to talk to those of us he knew were not especially keen on pavement-free riding. I could see the yearning coming off him in waves – he wanted this road so very badly. It was singing its siren song to him, and he was vibrating with eagerness to answer. I know the power of lust – Who am I to deny him what seems to be one of his favorite kinds of fun? If I’d said “Nah, no thank you, please,” I suspect the rest of them might have politely turned around with me. Maybe. Regardless, I’m not one to turn down a challenge on two wheels. Usually. (This will kill me one day.)

The road before us looked like any other slightly damp dirt road – nooooo problem. How bad could it be? I know better than to think this – I wondered “how bad could it be” when Markus et al told me about “the really bad potholes” south of El Rosario in Baja. Well, those were pretty effing bad – so bad that a statistically significant portion of my brain just wanted to crash so I could stop thinking about potholes for more than a nanosecond. Maybe take in the view. Ha.

 

So here we were, heading off on Adventures. My brand new Pilot Road 4’s slurked up enough mud to turn them into racing slicks after about a foot and a half, but things were pretty chill.

Initially.

 

Soon, mud, clay, and other nonsense presented themselves, most often in corners, and it became less “adventure” and more “ordeal.” How often that is the case, though – tomorrow’s “funny story” is Right Now’s fucking shitshow.

Poor Chuck H. had brand new tires on his XR, but he is an accomplished dirt rider. I have spent about an hour in dirt – almost 20 years ago, with this very same Chuck, in a very dry, very flat, Black Rock Desert. I don’t know How to Dirt. At all.

Have I mentioned that I have not yet bought The Perfect GS That Has Been Begging Me to Buy it for the Last Two Weeks? I have not. It is still sitting in the showroom, squeaky clean and perfect, much to everyone’s apparent disappointment (particularly Phil’s and his dog memes’ disappointment.) My resolve remains intact.

For now.

But we’re not talking about GS’s or my lack thereof, although this road would have likely been far less unpleasant on one. REGARDLESS.

The remaining Chuck was behind me, which was probably rather painful for him – watching me clumsily navigate the “road,” plus being held back by my turtle’s pace. Even a fully-laden swallow would have been going significantly quicker than I was.

Mud. Clay. Sand. Gravel. The occasional pile of cow shit (shown below:)

Shown here: A very unamused Phil with some poop.

A new, quite pronounced button tuck in my saddle. Knuckles so white they must have glowed through my thick winter gloves.

“Just relax. Just relax. Let the bike do what it’s going to do, let physics work. RELAX!!! WHY AREN’T YOU RELAXING?!?!” I kept muttering to myself.

Physics, despite being pretty predictable, can seem like a fickle bitch to the inexperienced (read, “me riding in mud.”) My head knew (only from having been told) “go faster to keep stable,” but my eyes saw mud and my lizard brain said “WHAT!?!?!? FUCK THAT, SLOW THE FRICK DOWN, MISSY. Jinkies!”

First gear. Second gear. Standing up. Sitting down. Standing up again. Foot allllmost down in the muddy curves.

“THIS IS GREAT!! LET’S DO IT AGAIN!!”

Oh good, there’s Scott D. waiting for us with his phone camera – At least the sunglasses hid my wide-as-saucers eyes, right? Wave at the camera? Ha; that would require unclenching my paw.

Washboard surfaces varying from violent sine waves to v tach. The occasional small river flowing across the road.

I’m sure there were gorgeous views to be had, but I surely didn’t see any of them. Would I rather ride this or Mexico 1 near Catavina? Tough decisions.

Occasionally, when the road was particularly bendy and wound back on itself for awhile, I would catch a fleeting glimpse of one of the guys approximately 6 miles ahead, and I could feel the grin all the way back where I was.

We slogged on. Periodically, The Scotts and Rex would stop and wait for us. When we caught up, they would (I assume) cackle maniacally and tear off around the next soggy bend. As I followed their trail, I could see they were having a great time – mud and sand thrown up where they’d goosed the throttle mid-turn — the very same turn where I was in first gear, desperately trying to keep my tires turning but not spinning, and the bike upright despite it wanting to slide down the sloped “road” and into the ditch. Occasionally being passed by elderly persons on their daily constitutionals.

Whee!

Much like on Mexico 1, there was a small but loud part of my brain that irrationally and stupidly wanted to give up.  “I’ve enjoyed about as much of this as I can stand.”

In an email to the club, I wrote:

Afterward, at the Chairs, I mentioned about halfway through that muck I was thinking, “yknow, I could just stop and live here forever. That would be fine.”

Scott D. said, “yeah, it’s beautiful up there, isn’t it?”

Yes. Yes, that is what I was thinking. It was most definitely not “fuck this shit with a wheelbarrow.”

I resigned myself to the fact that today was the day I’d drop the FJ – at least it would be at slow speeds and (I hoped) on soft mud. Maybe I wouldn’t break anything on the bike or on myself, even! Winning!

I had literally no idea where we were or how long it would take to reach the end of this road: Ten minutes? An hour? Thursday?

Ah, adventures.

Eventually, after several dozen more fishtails and before the sun went down, no less, I caught up to the crew under the tree where we stop on Engineer’s Road. Everyone was already parked, dismounted, and well-rested. I looked at the area under the tree: Hell if I was parking in the soggy dirt – I kept the even-more-filthy-than-usual FJ on the pavement, thank you very much.

Look at those happy faces! I’m glad we went.

I dismounted, and there were high-fives all around, comments about “rites of passage,” and so forth. The elder Scott said something about looking forward to the story I would write about the matter (here ya go, bud.)

Truth be told, I can see how that ride would be a hell of a lot of fun for someone who a.) knows what they’re doing, and b.) has an appropriate bike to tackle it. Sadly, I do not fall into either camp, but somehow, some way, I managed to stay upright. The Mighty FJ 09 persevered – who needs a GS, right?

Right?

(Hush, Phil. And Greg.)

(And everyone else “helping” me to decide.)

As an added plus, the Givi topcase didn’t bounce off, and neither did the GoPro I’d forgotten all about under the tail rack. Score. But my bike is dirty! My spotless, meticulously polished… no wait, that’s not me. It’s never me. My bikes are always dirty.

All in all, I love riding with these guys anywhere – even Engineer’s Road, even whatever the hell this nonsense was, to Hell and back, wherever: I’ll follow them, and I’ll keep on admiring their insane riding skills. I’m incredibly lucky to be able to come along and have them put up with me.

I could ride with them 12 hours a day every day and still have a grin on my face at the end of it all.

A Rising Tide Lifts All Boats

For many years, I was a thoroughly shitty person. Competitive, judgmental, negative – all the things – probably more internally than externally, but I’m certain it was obvious to others more often than not.

Many of these thoughts and behaviors were directed at other girls (and later, women) because I had been so fully conditioned to see other women as some evil force in the world, competition for male attention, threats to my personal satisfaction, et cetera.

What. Utter. Bullshit.

It was doubly idiotic in my case, because I am I am often attracted to women as well as to men, so I had this ridiculous war going on in my head of hating women, of feeling ultra-threatened by them, and yet also being drawn to a number of them.

Thankfully, somewhere in my thirties, I managed to break through that insane socialization and began to appreciate women, to respect them, and to be very gentle with judgment. Of course, there are a ton of women who are better at things than I am. Of course, there are women who are far more intelligent, more together, more attractive, more everything than I am.

And that’s ok.

I’m sure many, perhaps even most, of you grokked this far earlier on in life than I did, but my perfect storm of a wretched, judgmental mother combined with American marketing and general socialization, had me swallowing that particular bait hook, line, and sinker.

I couldn’t be more grateful to the people who unknowingly helped me to climb out of that pit of despair. Thank you. My life is so much richer, far less miserable, now that I can accept other women as whole people rather than just Competitors.

Recently, I became friends with a woman who would have sent me through the roof with jealousy and anxiety a decade ago. She is intelligent, kind, driven, skilled, generous, supportive, gorgeous, and just generally neat. The more I get to know her, the more I adore her: She’s all the things. The good things. Sure, I’m certain she has her baggage like the rest of us do, but her level of kick-ass far exceeds that other stuff. Look at this girl:

Right? Not only does she ride, but she races. And she rides dirt.  She does all manner of things I’d love to do myself but never made priorities in my life. So, I’ll live vicariously a little through her adventures and hopefully share some, too. Ten or fifteen years ago, I would have just quietly seethed with raging jealousy and avoided her, because I was dumb.

This post started knocking around my head this morning as I was scrolling through footage of the lunch ride down to Ensenada, Mexico, we took yesterday with two other friends. Raven (because of course her name is “Raven,”) was behind me for some of the trip, and I found myself looking for frame grabs in which she looked awesome (these, incidentally, are not hard to find.) I had one of those “huh!” moments as I realized I wanted her to look awesome, to be seen as spectacular. The me of days past would have quietly swept those under the rug. Here’s one now:

So, this is a sort of self-congratulatory post, which makes me wince, but I’ll throw it up here anyhow as part of my journey. You know me – I seldom have a thought that doesn’t come tumbling out of my fingers. Plus, since The Dawn of the Internet, I’ve found when I share shortcomings, it often helps someone else wrestling with similar things not to feel alone.

Here’s Raven’s Stuff so you can follow along with her, too:

Website: http://raventurous.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/raventurous/?hl=en

 

Nanoseconds to Eternity

Instinct is a funny, crazy thing. I had a friend who was about ready to strangle me for a minute on a hike in the Cascades many years ago when we crested a small ridge and I came to a slow but certain halt.

“Wait,” I said.
“What?” he asked, looking around.
“I saw something.”
What?!
<long pause>
“I don’t know yet.”
He blinked and started to say something, but I held up a finger.

It took me a good 15 or 20 seconds to suss it out, carefully examining everything in front of us. As it happened, what I saw was a bear about 50 yards ahead, upwind, in light scrub cover. Some reptilian part of my brain that wasn’t fully connected to my consciousness managed to send up a flare to get my constantly wandering attention and saved us the trouble of careening headlong into her. Of course, I’m pretty sure she would’ve skedaddled long before we actually got too close, but with bears it’s a good idea to be cautious.

Similarly, we all know when something isn’t quite right with our bikes – even if we can’t articulate what that might be. Something feels “off.” Pay heed, friends: Your gut is trying to tell you something, and with two tiny rubber contact patches keeping you upright at speed, it warrants listening to that niggling feeling. Such an occasion arose today on our Saturday group ride.

It’s December 2nd, my first December in San Diego, and I am absolutely basking in the glory of not having to winterize my bikes. For those of you baffled by what that might mean, “winterizing” is the act of draining the fuel (or stabilizing it,) hooking the bike up to a battery tender, and (ideally) getting the tires up off the ground. There, the bike will remain inert for the next four to six months while the weather plays cruel tricks on those unfortunate enough to reside in chillier climes.

I know, right? Madness.

During those dark, somber months, Northern riders are afflicted with PMS – Parked Motorcycle Syndrome. We.. rather, they… watch YouTube videos, “Long Way Round,” and whine. A lot.

But I digress. Here in glorious San Diego, the sun continues to bathe us in warmth and delight, and temperatures make even the southern routes not only bearable but sublime. Today was just such a day.

Most of the group took off after The Chairs to help a club member move, but those of us unhelpful slackers who carried on blasted down Wynola and Sunrise Highway, then stopped for lunch at an ice cream shack nearby. There, we ran into new club member “My Bike Blew Over at Borrego” Eric and had a nice, relaxed meal. I promise I did not kick his bike over, you jerks.

Post-lunch, Scott D. led us through some of the most gorgeous sweepers and hills I’ve thus far seen (every new road is a favorite for me) at what I assume was, for him, an incredibly relaxed pace, because the only way I could have a chance in hell of keeping up with Scott is if I shackled him to a Road King.

Towing a trailer.

With one eye covered.

At any rate, I did not even look at my speedo, and just focused on keeping lines and so forth. On Lyon Valley Road, not too far past the little shop where we often stop for breaks, there’s a pretty sharp left-hand corner. As I slowed a bit, thinking about the upcoming lean/roll-on, my reptilian self said, “oh, shit.” Taken aback and totally uncertain what had caught my eye, I rolled off and gently applied some brakes. My back tire immediately began fishtailing, and, while my memory might be playing tricks on me, it seemed like the front got a little squirrely, too. [expletive]

Welp, time’s up – It was either turn or go through the guard rail, so I gingerly eased the bike through the turn, everything feeling loose and horrible the whole time. While it was assuredly only about a half-second for which I was at risk of launching myself over the cliff, I must have said “don’t look at it don’t look at it don’t look at it look where you want to go look where you want to go” a thousand times in three nanoseconds, which stretched into an eternity.

For those however many split-seconds, the bike was fishtailing like a son of a bitch, something she Does Not Do, Ever. The FZ1 is a solid bike, and she loves fast curves. The Pilot Road 4’s have served me incredibly well, and continue to do so: Something was definitely Not Right. Experimenting with gentle braking while my cohorts vanished in the distance, I realized there was something most definitely amiss – hell if I knew what.

There was a small amount of loose gravel in the center of the lane, but the two sides seemed free of any debris. The behavior exhibited itself regardless of the gravel. Slowing, way, way down for the right-hander ahead, I damn near bit the dust again as the rear end tried to wash out beneath me. “WHAT THE EFF,” I yelled into my helmet, heart in my throat, resisting the overpowering urge to stiffen up and clench the grips. The next left-hander was worse. I envisioned myself hurtling over the edge to my demise, and thought for a moment that would actually be a pretty cool way to go – provided I was guaranteed a swift death at the bottom, and not some tormented, vegetative state: I’m not afraid of death, but mercy, save me from Lingering.

I had to stop to see if I’d gotten a flat or worse. A pullout presented itself, and, fortunately, it was “just” a nasty streak of something wildly slippery coating both tires – maybe oil, maybe diesel, maybe ATF, who knows, but the end result was the same: Bad Shit was present. I hoped my colleagues wouldn’t be so worried as to turn around and come back for me, even though it had only been a few minutes – I’m a fairly new member to the club, and hadn’t ridden with this particular set of dudes terribly often.

Wiping off what I could with the cuff of my glove, I got back on and rode, very sedately, for a time, trying to wear off whatever crud was trying to ruin my day. After a couple of miles, I began leaning slightly more and more with every turn, until finally everything seemed more or less back together. Not perfect, not the rock-solid normal, but “ok.”

Then, I rode like hell to catch up, still taking it pretty easy in the curves. Thankfully, that amazing four-cylinder puts out enough power to make up time in the straights, and the group had likely slowed a bit; maybe five or seven miles down the road, there they were.

Some of you might know that awful feeling following such an event – every tiny dip or bump or change in surface texture makes me wonder if something else is going wrong with the bike. It turns into this cascading vortex of doubt that steals my focus and pretty much kills the joy of the ride. Fortunately, we were winding up and it was mostly in-town roads and freeway for the rest of the way home.

Once safely parked in the underground structure (man, do I miss having a proper garage!) I checked everything over and found the substance had worn almost entirely away – a few dark spots on the far edges of the rubber were the only evidence (ok, those, and my elevated blood pressure.)

We’re creatures with 4280 million years of evolution behind us – instincts and reflexes we aren’t even aware of are all there, serving their functions. Our eyes blink before we  feel the mote of dust brush past our eyelashes; our brains and bodies are processing a metric honkload of information every single moment, and we only fully experience a fraction of it all. The rest usually slips past unnoticed and unannounced, but I tell you what – when that primal portion tries to tell us something, boy howdy, we need to pay attention.

While nine times out of ten it might be a false alarm (Google “cats afraid of cucumbers video” for examples – https://youtu.be/pXv44YL_Gio?t=14s ) that other time might be something truly dire. Whether my subconscious recognized an almost-invisible oil patch or some other tiny detail my consciousness had overlooked, that added moment of caution before I would have actually hit the turn at speed probably saved me. Phew. I’ll have to save my need for plummeting headlong toward the ground for my next skydive.

Whether it was the heightened emotion from all of that or whether it was something else, about 15 minutes later I found myself breaking one of my cardinal rules: Never give a cage driver the finger. EVER. There are two reasons for this:

  1. I try to be a good motorcycle ambassador as much as I can be. Flipping people off serves no purpose and just makes me look like an asshole. Better to let the other asshole do whatever assholey thing he was doing and ignore him.

  2. I never know who the first person to arrive at the scene of my accident is going to be. Do I want it to be someone I just flipped off? Nope.

Regardless, a green Kia driver wouldn’t let us pass him, so we passed one by one on a reasonably safe stretch of double-yellow. As Dave rode by, the driver stuck his hand out the window and invited him to go eff himself, then held that invitation aloft for me. As I passed, before I even realized what I was doing, my own left hand lifted up and offered the same salute in kind. BAD RIDER!! BAD!!!

I should have just left him and his flipped bird hanging impotently in the breeze, but no – my dander and my hackles were already up. Shit. Note to self: Stop it.

Tomorrow is the BMW Owners of San Diego holiday party, so no morning ride for me. This is probably just as well; I need to put myself in the penalty box for a minute for that lapse of poise.  While I am not much of a Holiday Person, I do sometimes enjoy getting gussied up and hanging out with my friends; I’m very much looking forward to it!