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!

Motorcycles & Relationships

“Do you really need more than one?” is a question commonly asked by non-riders. N + 1, baby; N + 1.

I have dated many men and women over the decades, and I’ve run the gamut of good relationships and bad. Of the <cough><insert number here> people who have been in that mix, vanishingly few of them have ridden motorcycles – which is simultaneously a tragedy and a blessing in disguise.

On the “blessing” side, having partners who don’t ride guarantees me a certain measure of Alone Time, no matter what. I’m an only child (“ooohhh,” people always say, nodding; “that explains a lot,”) and I needs mah Space. My soul gets restless and itchy if subjected to people non-stop for a long period of time.

On the tragedy side, if someone doesn’t know that irresistible beckoning of two wheels, hasn’t ever experienced the promise of a full, cold tank of gasoline pressing against their thighs, hasn’t ever had to dodge an errant cage driver, hasn’t ever downshifted and rolled on through a big, long, smooth sweeper… can we really connect? Yeah, of course we can… but there’s always going to be that impassable gulf between us. Stopping and taking a break on a particularly breathtaking ride and being able to share the view and the whole damn experience with someone I care about is superb. I miss that.

Non-riders look at motorcycles and see Machines; we look at them and see beautiful, endless possibilities. Miles of ’em.

Fuck yes, I want this between my legs more than most things most of the time. This is apparently difficult to understand. No, it has nothing to do with vibration.

Too, I don’t just ride – a ride a lot. It is, after all, the biggest reason why I moved to San Diego. It’s November 26th, and I just got home from a spectacular five-hour ride that was only a little chilly at the beginning of the morning. My poor Michigan friends, as well as our other northern bretheren, are stuck making vroom-vroom noises in their garages for another 5ish more months.

Time and time again, so many of the married riders I know (men and women alike) who don’t have a spouse who enjoys riding lament their misfortune. They speak of “kitchen passes” and sometimes have “curfews” and limitations on how many days per week they’re “allowed” to ride. Others are more fortunate and have understanding, gracious partners who happily allow them the time they need to bond with their machines and riding buddies, which makes the time they choose to spend together all the more fantastic. I love seeing my friends happy in their relationships – it’s such a refreshing change of pace from the all too common bitching and moaning about a less-than-perfect marriage.

My ex-husband just didn’t get it, and over the brief six years we were together, the more time I spent on the road, the more he came to resent my most treasured hobby. When I bought a Harley in 2012 (sssshhh, we’re all friends here, no judging,) he was so furious… he called his mom to tell on me. Oh gosh – Stuff just got real. He was a great guy, make no mistake, but our compatibility fell well short of where it should have been in a number of areas. Eventually, I had to flee to save both of our sanities.

Now, having uprooted myself and relocated cross-country for the third time, I am faced with a dilemma – Am I willing to compromise on this key area again? The bigger part of me says “of course!” but there is a nay-sayer in the back of my head, clucking her tongue and inhaling through her teeth if someone isn’t a rider. “I dunno,” she says, skepticism virtually dripping off her words, “is s/he going to start getting shitty when I do overnight trips with other people? What about when both weekend mornings are consumed by club rides? Are we willing to sacrifice that?”

Sure, if I’m head-over-heels in love, I’ll compromise, but “head-over-heels” seldom happens. I am a seeker by nature, and it takes a lot to get me in it to win it. Once In It, however, I’m 100% there as long as everyone’s happy.

Cue the inner pragmatist, who seldom sees the light of day: There are a lot of damn pitfalls in any potential match – politics, monogamy versus poly, incompatible schedules, lack of geographic proximity, hatred of something important to the other… should I really narrow my field by another order of magnitude?

Sure, I could drive up here… but it’s soooo much more fun to ride.

Thus far out here, every rider I’ve taken a liking to has already been snapped up by some other lucky human, and I have painfully learned my lesson about keeping my hand out of that particular cookie jar. Granted, there are a lot of good things about being single – a whole lot. I am beholden to no one, I set my own schedule without fear of reprisals, I don’t have to check in. “Is there money in the bank? Yes? Sweet, let’s go!” “Do I feel like just not coming home tonight? Fuck it, I’m staying in Borrego Springs until morning.”

Of course, there’s the distinct lack of sex, which is problematic. But these are the choices I make. For now. <twitch>

Meeting people is a bit tricky when online dating doesn’t work for me. I need to meet someone organically through a common thing – motorcycles, for example, would be great. Or shooting pool. Or snorkeling. Shooting. Photography. Or whatever thing we have in common that provides a foundation to build upon other than, “Hey, so I hear you’re looking for someone to date, too!” <awkward laugh> OKCupid is a fucking nightmare. Tinder? Ick.

It would be fun to have someone to Do Stuff with (it’s difficult to talk random friends into cage diving with Great White Sharks to the tune of $3000,) but at what expense? As with all things, I need to relax and just let time play its track out. I’ve sort of settled into being single for the rest of my life at this point – I’m 47; my dating pool is shrinking by the nanosecond.  The last several people I’ve dated have been in their twenties, but obviously, while super fun, those sorts of gigs aren’t going to be terribly long-term due to the sheer magnitude of experience differentials. At this point, I’m seeking a grown-ass person who has their shit together, who, for one reason or another, is single.  Oh, and who would find me remotely interesting. Where they at?

<crickets>

Alright, enough bemoaning the woeful state of my non-existent love life, y’all. I am so exceptionally fortunate in damn near every other area, I think I can be cool missing out on this. Right? Right.

… Right?

Spoiled brat, c’est moi.

Motorcycles, Politics, Camping, Sex, Compassion, and Bees

Part One: Bees

Some days we never want to end, others cannot expire soon enough. This past weekend held a little of both, though the good certainly outweighed the bad and the ugly.

As one might surmise from the title, this is going to be a long one, folks, and we’re going to cover a lot of ground (badly, and without much in the way of Organization, might I add.)

Let’s start with the bees, because they’re important, they’re dying all around us, and three of them had important cameos this week. Wait, lies – Let’s start with this weekend’s plans, because they factor into everything.

On Tuesday, I decided to tag along on a group motorcycle camping trip to the Salton Sea from Friday through Sunday. I’d not done motorcycle camping since 1996, and what better way to get back into the swing of things than with a gaggle of other like-minded folks?

Ok, now the bees.

That morning, I had found a very sickly looking bee on my patio furniture. I see dozens of dead bees around my apartment complex, which is always a sad thing. I have to assume there is some kind of pesticide they’re using which is killing them off in tragic droves, one by one, dozen by dozen.  I find them lying on the sidewalk every day. I don’t know what sort of bees they are, or whether they are solitary, but I do know we need every last one of them that’s left on this Earth.

“To understand many things you must reach out of your own condition.”
~Mary Oliver

Thus, when I saw the wee girl on my chaise lounge, I didn’t have much hope of her being alive. I gently blew across her wings, and she reared up into a groggy but distinctly defensive position: Middle legs and stinger raised, wings outstretched, facing this new unknown threat. Immediately after assuming this posture, she lost balance and tumbled onto her side. Oh, dear. Poison? Cold? I have no idea how to distinguish a poisoned bee from one that is simply too cold. I watched her for a few seconds as her legs clumsily churned in slow motion, trying to get her upright.

I can’t stand to see animals suffer; it causes me anguish in a deep, sensitive, delicate area. My first instinct was that she was dying, and that I should end her suffering. That’s such a final solution, though – I wanted to give her the chance to survive. Hoping she was cold and that I could warm her up, I placed my index finger alongside her body so the heat would radiate out to her. She immediately perked up and began scrabbling toward me – not in an aggressive manner, but in a keenly interested one: Her antennae and front legs reached forward ambitiously, her abdomen and stinger remained relaxed.

As quickly as she could, she climbed up onto my finger, legs frequently missing their steps and wobbling with every one, but she got there and then she sat quite still – only her antennae moved, daintily touching my skin, perhaps trying to figure out what I was, whether I was food, or just a heat source.

“This is quite an exercise in trust for us both, isn’t it?” I murmured.

I waited. After perhaps two minutes, her movements became more regular and coordinated, and after a minute more, she adroitly took to the sky where I hope she will live out a normal, healthy bee life. Thursday, the spectacle repeated itself as I found a similarly beleagured bee clinging to the wall near my elevator. She took much longer to come around, but eventually she, too, flew off into the sun. I videod that one, which is probably only of interest to me (and maybe Steven and Leslie:)

I hope this is amongst the right things to do, and isn’t causing them harm or more stress that will lead to terrible things. Thinking back to both of these times makes me feel happy: Altruism serves the self, too.

Flash-forward to Saturday night around a campfire burning in a large metal pit. A pale, half-inch-long spider ran in circles for over an hour along the rim of the pit, sometimes stopping to inquisitively check out its surroundings, but mostly just running around the rim fairly quickly. For awhile, no one else seemed to notice it, then Chuck pointed it out. We wondered why the circles – if it was too hot, why didn’t it simply hop off the edge into the cool darkness? Around and around and around, sometimes at what seemed like its top speed. Others began to notice it and watched.

I was worried someone was going to knock it into the flames – people are so often mindlessly cruel to tiny beings, particularly when we find them distasteful – but as far as I know, nobody did. I watched them watching it, trying to figure out what everyone, arachnid and human, was thinking. Naturally, I’ll never know. At some point, I looked for it, and it was gone – I hope off into the night to hunt some bugs, and not into the flames to briefly wither and then die. I was heartened, though, that at least for a half hour or 45 minutes, the humans elected to let it live. This brings us to:

Part Two: Compassion

We are strong when we show the smallest of beings compassion. Humans, lacking any real predators (though I do hold out hope for the bacteria and viruses to rein us in, perhaps soon,) might think we have little to lose or to gain by stepping on a spider or by putting it outside, unharmed. I posit we have everything to gain through compassion. The simple act of choosing kindness over cruelty or even over neglect actually changes our brain chemistry and our bodies. For the better. You can read a summary of one such study right here: Compassion Meditation. Scientific article here: Compassion Training Alters Altruism and Neural Responses to Suffering

Beyond quantifiable results, though, lie the more immediate, personal, less tangible ones: We feel good when we do good.  Some might feel a sort of smug satisfaction when squishing an insect, but is it really a good feeling? Perhaps for some. If you’re someone who likes the idea of Power and Control, what greater satisfaction is there than to have the ability to decide whether something lives or dies? In the grand scheme of things, one spider, one bee, is meaningless to most of us – but it’s pretty fucking important to the spider and to the bee.

Let’s flip this around for those amongst us who aren’t of a mindset to live and let live. Let’s think for a moment about wild dolphins – these are powerful, intelligent animals, capable of quickly, easily, and efficiently killing humans in the water. Seldom does anything ever go wrong when people dive with them, though. Sure, there is the odd, misguided attempt at coupling, or a “rogue” habituated dolphin getting cranky, but most dolphin “attacks” get no worse than this – spoilers, no actual attack occurs, just enjoy:

They could kill us, but they choose not to. There’s a lot of power in that. Wild-animal-related human fatalities typically happen under circumstances that are usually the fault of either that particular person (getting selfies with wildlife, trying to pet or feed wildlife, provoking wildlife, et cetera,) or of People in General (areas where wildlife is often fed, encroaching onto territories, et cetera.)

Predators other than humans don’t tend to attack without cause – the stakes are too high, even for the apex predators (wolves, sharks, bears, et al.) They forever live in a PVP, very permadeath world (non-gamers, click the links to learn the lingo.)

All of us have the physical ability to intentionally harm or kill lesser beings should we so choose. There have been (thankfully rare) times in my past when I was needlessly cruel that to this day cause me the greatest shame I have ever felt. I don’t know why I did the things I did, and I wish more than anything I could go back and not do them. Instead, I have to live with those memories as a reminder of what I was capable of when my worst self took over and beg the forgiveness of a vast universe.

That Ian Malcolm quote, though: “Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should.”  We all know how that ended up, don’t we: Velociraptors. Right? Right. The next time you see a spider or an ant that is not especially in your way, choose to let it live and see how that sits with you. I hope it takes, not only to benefit those critters who might otherwise be harmed, but also to benefit you, yourself – walk into the warm light, man; it’s really nice here. For all of us. I promise you won’t be any less of a badass by being kind – in fact, your level of badassitude will increase immensely because you could choose pain or death, and you instead chose kindness and life. That? That is the ultimate in strength.

I have digressed, per usual. My point: Be compassionate, because you can afford to be. It costs nothing to extend kindness, and I suspect that even the most calloused, blackened heart can be warmed through its practice.

Let’s get off this particular soapbox and move on: Part Three: Motorcycles (coming soon…)