Note to an F&I guy

June 24th, 2013

I just got back from my third around-the-country trip on my 2001 FXST – Softail Standard. The odometer reads just over 144,444 (I hit that yesterday morning), with an actual mileage total closer to 150K. Not bad for a 12-year-old “bar-hopper.” 50,000 miles ago, I wouldn’t have thought she’d have two more 5,000+ mile trips in her, but she did. Although Hot01 has a few aches and pains, she runs amazingly well for a bike that’s 102 in people years.

But more important than the miles are the memories; the friends met, loves lost, storm fronts battled, ferry and border crossings, state lines welcomed and happy to have passed, national parks visited, campgrounds sleeping  with the front wheel an arms reach away, and the tender moments of motorcycle maintenance. So Mr. Finance Manager, when you’re dying to sell me a new bike and think a trade-in will make a better deal, telling me my bike isn’t much more than a liability waiting to happen is not going to get you on my good side.  But make no mistake, trying to downplay the value of a bike with that kind of mileage to the woman who put all the miles on it, is not helping her see your point of view. I didn’t ask you to put a price on the love of my life, because I knew you couldn’t come close.

If you work for a Harley dealership, you should understand the heart and soul behind 150,000 miles on a Harley-Davidson.

Vietnam Christmas – the first week

December 7th, 2012

I haven’t written since I got here. It’s been really hot, and I haven’t felt like sitting in front of the computer. It hasn’t been because I’ve been running around the country doing a lot of amazing things. I’ve been sick. Not “bad food” sick but a bad cold I’ve been fighting since my first day. The cold won. Aside from the typical bad cold stuff that sucks, I’ve been dealing with a really bad sore neck and shoulders. I’d love to take a hot shower, but the water only comes out in one temperature here: whatever it is in the cistern on the roof top.

But I have gotten out and seen some things. I’m also not too disappointed in my lack of activity since the main reason I came was to see my son, and we’ve had a lot of time together. I needed to see where he’s been living and what his life is like so I’ll worry less about him in the future. He’s had to work a few days too, so it’s been a good time for us to take it easy.

Dan’s birthday was December 3rd. We  got massages that day. A 90 minute massage translates to about $10 and includes the steam room and sauna. I started face down on the table, and when she began working on me, I realized she’d actually climbed up on the table. Soon I got the feeling that she was walking on me – mythbuster! They actually walk on your back. When I flipped over, I noticed the railing attached to the ceiling that she held on to for balance.

That night we met some friends for dinner at a restaurant in a different neighborhood. We sat outside at a table that was no taller than my knees. The chairs were plastic kids chairs. This is pretty standard, although often the seating is a small plastic or metal stool. Dan ordered one dish as soon as we got there, because it takes a long time to cook. A group of people showed up, some Vietnamese friends, his long-time friend Tom (the guy he came over here with), and a British guy Dan teaches with. We had eight adults and a small child packed around the kiddie table. We purchased some mangos and peanuts from a passing street vendor and ordered more food for dinner. Clams were on the menu as well as fried chicken wings. Eventually the main meal came out, which was a huge grilled fish totally intact. The bones of this particular fish are very thick, so it was easy to pull the meat off with chopsticks. Everyone just digs in and grabs some.

Dan told me before I came that Asian people age a lot better than Westerners, that a guy in Vietnam who looks 50 is probably 65. That being said, it’s been a great ego boost that everyone thinks I’m Dan’s wife or girlfriend rather than his mother. There are many conversations that I don’t understand, although I get the gist that someone is surprised about something. Several times Dan has told me that people can’t believe I’m his mother. Yay!

We’ve been to the zoo, which was OK. There was a huge white tiger. The crocodile garden was a little creepy. I had to keep checking to make sure there was adequate separation between us and them. This was one of my first lengthy rides on the scooter, and it was rush hour on the way back. I took a video of the crazy traffic and the alley way maze back to Dan’s house.

Scooters and small motorbikes are the typical transportation for everyone. You see entire families on a scooter. Women riding with women, guys riding with guys, women driving men and vice versa. Anything goes. Whatever needs to be done to get you there. And you just go. No right turn on red after stop; just a right turn without stopping regardless of the situation. If  you need to ride on the wrong side of the road to get to your destination, then you do it. If I can’t get the videos uploaded from Vietnam (poor connection speeds), then I’ll do it when I get home.

When Dan was first coming to Vietnam, I was very unsettled about it. I was alive in the sixties. I have close friends who were here back then and for whom Vietnam is a place where they lost friends and family and were forever scarred. This isn’t something I take lightly, and it’s been difficult for me to accept. Now that I’ve been here, I’ve found the people in Saigon/Ho Chi Minh City to be very friendly to Americans. At the coffee shop we visit every morning, another regular has an eagle blended with an American flag sticker on his scooter. The Vietnamese word for the United States means “beautiful country”. They aren’t so kind to the Chinese. I know that nothing can make up for the losses and horrors our country and soldiers suffered here, but the people of this city appreciate what the Americans tried to do for them. I will leave far more comfortable about my son being here.

Dan’s dragging me out for some crazy breakfast (they don’t have specific breakfast food here; it’s the same as lunch or dinner), so time to get moving. I’ll post more pictures and videos soon.


Finally arrived

December 1st, 2012

After a five hour flight from Korea, and quite possibly the slowest descent in aviation history, I made it to Vietnam. Dan had warned me about long wait times to get the visa. In Vietnam, you apply for a visa online. The company sends you a letter, and then you take that letter, your passport and your money to the Landing Visa window at the airport when you arrive. I paid $15 to get rushed through, although neither Dan nor I knew if this was a scam. He had told me to try to get to the window as quickly as possible.

I got stuck on the moving sidewalk behind the family with the two kids who were kicking me in the back the whole 5 hours on the flight. Gaah! I managed to dart around them between moving sidewalks and got to the Landing Visa window in front of our pack only to find that a couple of flights had arrived shortly before we did. I quickly figured out that getting the visa was like driving in New York City. You have to be assertive/borderline aggressive and jump in wherever you see a break. Make no hesitation. After a little back and forth and finding a place to wait among the hundred or so people there, my name was called immediately, and I was done. I guess the $15 did pay off. Yay!

I wasn’t sure if I’d ever see my checked bag again. The last time I saw it was on the curb in Denver, and I’d spent 14 hours at the airport in Korea. Once again I was amazed by my good luck as my bag was one of the first out. I grabbed it and headed for customs. I put the bag on the conveyor belt and walked to the other side. I looked around to see if anyone wanted to talk to me. Nobody seemed to care what I was doing, so I grabbed my bag and went on out. That was easy enough. Dan was right there waiting for me, and after a quick hug, we were off to find a taxi to take us to his place.

Immediately I was amazed by the the amount of people and stuff that could be fit on a small scooter or motorbike. Stuff you see posted on YouTube or Facebook – it’s everywhere. A whole family on a bike with the woman on the back holding her bare butt baby off to the side in case it peed or whatever. More goods loaded on a scooter than I could fit in my car. I love the helmets they have that look like baseball caps and plan on getting one for my bicycle.

After getting to the house, we went out for lunch. Apparently 2:00 on Saturday afternoon is a bad time to look for food, but we finally came upon a woman with her grill on the street and got a plate of rice and a super tasty pork chop for around 90 cents each. That’s where I learned that when you’re done with a napkin or have bones or something else you aren’t going to eat, you throw it on the ground. If you don’t throw it on the ground, the waitress or proprietor throws it on the ground and is annoyed that you didn’t. It all gets swept up later.

After lunch, we stopped by a street vendor for a drink. The guy fills a cup up with ice and then sticks a piece of sugar cane into a grinder. The juice goes over the ice and that’s your drink. It’s really good. It isn’t nearly as sugary or syrupy as you would think. I plan on getting a video of the whole process sometime soon. Maybe later today, as it would be a good reason to get another drink. :-)

We came back to the house and talked for a while. I have a voice over IP device I brought with me so I could talk to Willie, but we needed a phone to plug into it. Dan went out and came back with a cheap imitation (Chinese) Hello Kitty! phone. He told me how you have to test everything before you buy it. I totally want to bring this POS back home with me as a souvenir.

We went out to dinner at a place around the corner. Dan’s been good about not ordering anything too weird. We had seafood fried rice, barbeque ribs (cooked out on the sidewalk), and this beef dish that was really good. Lots of cilantro and basil in Vietnam, which I love. There are also lots of strange fruits that I plan on trying before I leave. Most restaurants – all businesses really – are open to the road. At the restaurant, people pull their motorbikes inside and park them at the front of the restaurant. It’s kind of hard to see them in this picture, but they are between the last table and the door.

After dinner we stopped for dessert. It was another street vendor with a cart facing the street. You order and then go sit down at the tiny little plastic table with plastic kids chairs, all of which are pretty standard in Vietnam. I guess that’s fine if you’re a small Vietnamese person. Dan says you get used to it, and it’s been good for his back. Whatever. The desert has a bunch of stuff thrown in the glass, most of which are beans. There are some pieces of a jello-like substance as well. Ice is put on top, and then a coconut milk concoction is poured over that. I was a little scared, but Dan insisted it was good, so I tried. It was awesome. I also feel less guilty eating a dessert made with beans. I think I need to learn how to make this.

So that was yesterday’s adventure. I’m not sure what we’re doing today, but it’s great just to be hanging out with my kid. Even though it’s been three years, it’s like we saw each other yesterday. We talked about some of the stuff from the past – things we would have done differently, things we didn’t appreciate then but now realize what we had. No regrets so much, just acknowledgment and insight for the future. I know we’ve both changed our circumstances, but we’re still the same mother and son we always were together.

Vietnam Christmas – the ride there

November 30th, 2012

OK, so it wasn’t really a ride. It started being an adventure a lot sooner than I thought. Surprisingly, the 13 hour flight was not as brutal as I was expecting. It’s now 2:40 am in the Seoul Incheon airport, and I’m wide awake. Good time to start writing…

Willie drove me to the Denver International Airport, leaving my house at 4:30 in the morning. The flight didn’t leave until 8:12, but I didn’t want to stress about it. We were able to check my bag curbside and then go park the car so we could go into the airport for breakfast. It was still early and not a lot of people, which was nice. We said our goodbyes, and I wandered off into the TSA rat maze. As I emerged out the other end and started down the escalators, I suddenly looked up and saw Willie standing on the walkway above. We waved goodbye as I descended into the shuttle area.

I had the back row to myself from Denver to Los Angeles. I read my Kindle and listened to music. It went by quickly. Once at LAX, I had to leave the terminal and take a shuttle bus to a different terminal. Walking into that terminal is when things started getting different. It was already like being in a different country. The signage wasn’t great. I started to understand what my son meant when he made the comment that nothing I wore (talking about my Wonder Woman sneakers) would be any weirder than me being a foreigner. Out of the 500+ people waiting to board the 747 heading to Korea, there may have been 10 of us white folks. I couldn’t understand a word anyone was saying, and I hadn’t even left American soil.

When I got on the plane, I was happy to find that I was in a row next to the galley, which meant there were only two seats in the row. Even better was that nobody was taking the seat next to me. As the plane filled, an unsmiling Korean woman walked past, taking note of the empty seat next to me. Sure enough, she decided she liked that seat better and changed. One of the flight attendants questioned her, but she insisted. Oh well. She wasn’t particularly friendly, but she was helpful a time or two.

Unlike my first flight, there was a lot of waiting for maintenance reasons, and we got off the ground about an hour later than scheduled. It wasn’t traumatic or anything, but who wants to add an hour to a 13 hour trip? We finally got underway, and we were served the first of our meals. It was pretty good, with a roll, smoked salmon, salad, cheese and crackers, steak, veggies and dessert – and no extra charge! Throughout the flight we could snacks and sandwiches whenever we asked. I didn’t know that; that’s where my bossy row-mate came in handy. There were touchscreen video screens set into the seatback in front of us, and there were several new releases available to watch, also no extra charge.

In addition to the movies, I could turn on the “airshow”, which was a graphic representation of where the plane was, both on the map and with respect to daylight on the globe. There were also a bunch of stats, such as how high we were and what the temperature was outside the aircraft. Most of the time, it was between -68 and -72 degrees Fahrenheit. The graph pictured here is the one that really intrigued me. We skirted the edge of daylight for probably 10 hours. We were close enough to it that we had a beautiful sunset the whole time. Although it was rainy in LA, by the time we got to Alaska, I could see the terrain. I took several pictures as we made the trip, and my indication of where we were is based on where the map was showing our location.

I thought it was pretty cool when we were over Russia. It looked like there was more snow than Alaska, but it may have appeared that way because the peaks are lower – I don’t know that they are; that’s an assumption. Where there were jagged rocks showing their grey color in Alaska, Russia was all white.

We finally landed in Seoul. For some reason I thought I had an 8 hour layover, but as the flight was underway, I started doing the math and realized I have 14 hours to kill in an airport in a country where I don’t speak the language nor carry any of the currency. Nice. I’d heard about some place called the “Hub” where passengers with a layover can hang out and relax. I was supposed to get complimentary admission, but the maximum amount of time you can stay is 5 hours. On the plane, a video announcement said it was on the fourth floor, so when I got off the plane, I started looking for it. Let me tell you, it was not obvious how to get there.

I went to a counter for Asiana Airline and tried to ask the woman there. Language barrier, and she pointed me in a direction. I wandered that way and was stopped by an official-looking guy who pointed me back the way I’d just come. I could not see an elevator or stairway to save my life. Another guy spoke absolutely zero English and pointed toward a doorway with a security checkpoint and signs that said “Transfer to Busan”. I have no clue where Busan is, and I didn’t want to go there, so it made no sense to get in that line. I was tired and frustrated at this point and found a chair to sit down on while I tried to figure out what to do. While I was there, an angry American went to the same desk I’d been to originally. It was apparent he was having the same frustration. Thanks to his loud ranting, I figured out that I did indeed need to get in line for the transfer to Busan.

It wasn’t a long line. I had to show my passport and boarding pass for my flight to Saigon, and I was allowed up the escalator. Voila! Paradise found. Shiny chrome, white and glass area with stores such as Chanel and Gucci and signs to the fourth floor where I could find the Hub. Unfortunately I had nothing proving I was promised a complimentary pass to the Hub, but with a limit of 5 hours, it didn’t help me much anyway. I wandered toward the Transit Hotel, which is attached to the airport. Based on the upscale nature of the area, I was pretty sure the hotel was going to be out of my price range, but it was worth a try. As I walked slowly down the corrider, I saw an area with these leather reclined couch/beds – a kind of chaise lounge I guess. They had singles and doubles and little room dividers between them. A couple of them were taken by people who were passed out cold. Yeah, that’s all I needed to see. I found one, took my shoes off, stuck my arm through the top strap of my backpack and woke up 6 hours later.

Now I’m sitting at a table in a comfortable chair with electrical outlets designed for charging travelers’ devices. There’s a wall with six PCs and nice office chairs across the hallway, and free massage chairs across from that. Beyond that is another room with several leather recliners where you can watch news and movies. There’s also a little library down toward the hotel. It’s all free! There are a few people milling about, but everyone’s respectful of everyone’s need for rest. It’s hard to believe I’m at an international airport and not in a four star conference center. Now just four more hours to kill until my flight to Saigon. Nine hours until I see the boy.

Put your mouse over the picture to see the caption. Let me know if you hate this slideshow plugin and I’ll find something else. I’m not sure I like it.
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August 29th, 2012

I love riding with my brothers and friends. I love heading up Lookout Mountain late at night, navigating the extreme twisties in the dark, tire to tire with the bike ahead and the one behind. I love blasting off from the traffic light, side by side, exhausts screaming, letting everyone know we’re having fun. But when it comes to a ride that spans a few days, a couple of a weeks, or a month, I’d rather go solo.

People think I’m anti-social when I do that, but the truth is, I’m in my social butterfly element when I’m on the road by myself. Since you can’t talk to your buddies when you’re riding anyway, what’s the difference? When I stop for gas or water or a bathroom break, I make new friends. There’s always something to talk about and a chance to exchange business cards.

A few weeks ago I rode home from Sturgis by myself. It was a hot and windy day in Wyoming, and I decided to take a break at the rest area where I knew members of the Christian Motorcycle Association were handing out free bottles of water. I got some water  and sat down at a shaded picnic bench with my tunafish “Lunch to Go” kit for a quick meal. When I was done, I walked back to my bike and saw a man on a black Road Glide parked next to me, speaking on the phone. He hung up, and we started chatting.

He was on the road from Maryland. He was taking a solo trip around the country. He’d just been at Sturgis and was heading down to Colorado Springs to see his oldest son at the Air Force Academy. He had also gone to the Academy and was recently retired from the Air Force. We talked about our amazing country and how riding solo gave us the opportunity to meet people we’d never have spoken with if we’d been riding with a friend. He felt that if more Americans would get out of their houses and home towns and get to know this great country of ours, we’d all be in better shape. I totally agree, having taken a life-changing ride myself. I told him that I’d written a book about my first cross-country trip and gave him a business card with Shovelhead Redemption scribbled on the back. I then assured him there was gas up ahead in Lusk, which was about 50 miles away, and jumped on my bike and headed south.

The man had told me his name, but I quickly forgot it. I tried to find the page on Facebook he was updating about his trip, but had no luck. This morning I received an e-mail from him saying that he’d ordered my book from Amazon. While he didn’t give a lot of details about his service, I got the feeling from one of his comments that he was high up on the food chain in the Air Force. I Googled his name and discovered he is a retired Brigadier General. Wow! You may meet the nicest people on a Honda, but if you’re looking for guts and glory, stick with Harley-Davidson.

Making a difference

July 25th, 2012

I’ve struggled with career issues forever. I’ve never been able to figure out what I want to do when I grow up. For the biggest part of my work life, I’ve been employed by large corporations with lots of benefits, a regular and consistent paycheck, and organizational charts. For a long time, in order to feel successful, I thought I had to keep moving up that chart. I kept going back to school and eventually earned an MBA, thinking that would get me “there”. The thing is, I’ve never felt that I fit in; a typical alcoholic’s complaint. Probably the closest I came to belonging was at the Interactive Media Lab at Dartmouth where most of my co-workers rode motorcycles. I was told that after they interviewed me, subsequent prospects were compared to me – and failed. We did cool stuff. I worked with super-intelligent and creative people, and it was like a family. The head boss made me want to bang my head against the wall fairly often, but the rest of the crew made it worthwhile. However, when I took my cross-country trip and decided to move to Colorado, I was ready to move on professionally.

Once in Colorado, I found I was back at square one, occupying a cubicle, going through the motions, trying to be grateful for a paycheck and benefits and the knowledge that being a biker for a major ski resort corporation wasn’t going to get me anywhere. I finally got the nerve to leave the corporate world, but only because I was going to get married and had a cushion. That cushion lasted all of three days when I realized I was making a big mistake and found myself homeless and unemployed at the start of this unending recession/depression/whatever you want to call it.

Fortunately, before I’d left New Hampshire, I’d started training people to ride motorcycles. I went through the brutal and demoralizing preparation course and passed with flying colors – top of my class! It sure didn’t feel like it. I’d never thought I was close to failing any class or training course before. But I left New Hampshire with my national certification, and I hooked up with ABATE of Colorado and started teaching out here. It was a rocky start. Although it’s the same course, things are done a little differently than they were back east. Plus I got rear-ended on my bike in Longmont right off the bat, which meant I taught very little my first year. When my second season in Colorado rolled around, it was like starting all over.

When I became homeless and unemployed, I started teaching more. I got more involved in ABATE. Before I knew it, I became a site administrator in Greeley. That means that I do the scheduling, keep the bikes running, and teach as often as I want at my site. Becoming a site administrator is a big thing. It was similar to a really big jump on that organizational chart. I also got promoted to lead instructor. I fit in!

The only problem with all of this is that I work every weekend. I work outside at the mercy of the weather. In the winter, we never know if classes will be held or possibly a forced reschedule halfway through the weekend. In the summer it’s freaking hot. It’s very physical work, and I’m usually in a lot of pain at the end of each work day. After so many classes in a row, my patience for students who can’t read instructions on where to show up for class and what to wear becomes limited. I get frustrated when students make excuses every time you coach them or can’t follow instructions. I wonder what makes some people think they should be riding a motorcycle in the first place. In other words, it’s a quick burn out when the season gets going hot and heavy.

But then something happens, like what happened to me this morning, and I am incredibly grateful that I am in a place that gives me the opportunity to change people’s lives in the blink of an eye. I am able to open the door to riding a motorcycle.

After doing some work on the bikes at my site this morning, I stopped at the Walgreens. While checking out, a young woman came in and walked by me, asking if that was my bike outside. Yes. Then as I was getting ready to leave, she came out and we started talking. She’d seen the “Bad Girl” sticker on my bike and knew it belonged to a woman. She has wanted to learn but didn’t think it was possible. Ha! Just so happens I could help her with that. I explained that taking the Basic Rider Course is the best way to determine if riding is something she could do. She might love it, or she might find out she’s happier riding on the back with her husband. Even if she doesn’t choose to ride her own, she doesn’t have to wonder for the rest of her life if that was something she should have done. She feels it will bring her closer to her husband. It probably will, even if it’s as simple as him knowing that she shares his interest in motorcycles.

And then I rode off, knowing that as difficult as my work is, I’m not just a nameless cubicle-monger, another cog in the machine. I’m someone who changes people’s lives.

Colorado Walkabout

May 19th, 2012

View of Mt. Princeton from the Buena Vista KOAI don’t do well toward the end of winter. It’s nice that we can ride at least once every month through winter on the High Plains of Colorado, but short cold days don’t allow for general multi-day wanderings and sleeping under the stars. It seems like the closer we get to full-blown summer riding, the more agitated I become. Call it “that time of the year” for me. One wrong word can, and did, send me over the edge.

After a week of agonizing over the error of my ways and worrying that I was going to make life-changing decisions that I’d regret, I was blessed with a three-day forecast of temps in the eighties. While I would have preferred a few weeks on the road, I was happy to take off with my sleeping bag and no real plan on a Tuesday morning.

Because it’s still a little cold in the mountains early in the morning, and I didn’t want to deal with Denver traffic, I decided to head south on the eastern side of the city and then turn west somewhere around Colorado Springs. Thinking of a friend’s home I’d be passing near, I made contact and plans to stop.

While eastern Colorado lacks curves, I enjoyed the three hour ride south. Traveling where I’ve never been, even if it is close to home, mimics a major road trip. I love the feeling of riding into small towns I’ve never visited, like a cowgirl roaming the Old West. I got to my first stop point just before noon and waited while my friend rode into town to meet me. Back out even further onto the plains, and the nice quiet evening with my friends helped get my head to a better place.

On Wednesday morning, it was time to head up into the mountains and to one of my favorite spots to camp. There’s nothing like twisting on the throttle through the canyons to put a big smile on my face and joy in my heart. There’s just something about the roar of the Big Shots and the steep lean angles, from one side to the other, that makes all my cares disappear.

After crossing South Park on Route 24, I arrived at the KOA in Buena Vista. I love this campground. There isn’t a bad Motorcycle at cabin at KOAspot in the place, and the views are incredible. Because it was still pretty cool in the mountains and there were rain showers, I sprung for one of their cabins. After unpacking my bike (actually just taking the sleeping bag off the handlebars and throwing it on the bunk), I rode into town to find the hot springs and get dinner.

Cottonwood Hot Springs is west of town, and they have several pools of varying temperatures. There were a few couples there, but because it was the off-season still, I had a pool to myself. It was amazing. When it got too hot in one pool, I changed to another to cool down a bit. Then back to a much warmer one. Any remaining troubles soaked out of my body and were gone.

Dinner was at Quincy’s, one of my favorite places. I love that they only have one thing on the menu: filet mignon. You get a filet, a baked potato, and a salad with their house dressing. Your only choices are size of the steak, butter and/or sour cream, and how you want the steak cooked. The trade-off for a lack of selection is an incredible price. If I can afford it, almost anyone can. And it’s good. After that it was back to the campground for a peaceful evening under the stars.

Thursday morning I stopped in town for gasoline and breakfast. I stumbled upon a new diner behind the gas station in Johnson Village that had opened up the day before: The Smoke Shack. A very energetic owner welcomed customers and sat down to talk with me. I had the smoked corned beef hash, which was made with local produce: beets, potatoes and onions. At first I wasn’t crazy about the beets in the mix, but the hash was excellent. They also have local trout on the menu, although smoked trout would only be available as a special from time to time. Pulled pork was on the board as a lunch special. I’ll definitely be back.

Scenic view near Climax, COThe road took me through Leadville, the highest incorporated city in the United States. The view of snow covered peaks from the center of town was incredible, but I had no reason to stop and kept riding on through. Climax was the next town, and just north of Climax is this small turn off that I always say I won’t stop at but I always do. I can’t tell you how many pictures I have of my motorcycle in front of the small lake with the jagged peaks in the background. I love that spot.

Although the trip was winding down, I still enjoyed the freedom of the road with a trip through the old mining and now gambling towns of Central City and Blackhawk. From there it was on up to Nederland, home of the Frozen Dead Guy, and across the Peak to Peak Highway into Estes Park. I meandered around Estes for a little while then dropped back down to the Front Range into the outskirts of Loveland, across to Masonville, Horsetooth, and finally down into Fort Collins.

And this is why I moved to Colorado. My little three-day jaunt cost me almost nothing and took me over some of the best roads in the country. With my mind cleared, I was able to come home, reconcile where needed, and get back to my awesome life. I’ll be back in Buena Vista soon. While there I reserved the best campsite in the campground for late June. I can’t wait!

Book Review: “The One Percenter Encyclopedia” by Bill Hayes

April 17th, 2012

Motorbooks sent me one of their newest publications, “The One Percenter Encyclopedia” for review. The book was written by Bill Hayes.

Bill Hayes is an avid motorcyclist whose articles, columns, and fiction have been published in Easyriders, Thunder Press, and Biker magazines. His column in Real Blues magazine has run for many years and several of his feature articles on martial arts have appeared in Black Belt magazine. Bill writes passionately about the things he loves and knows best: motorcycles, the blues, and martial arts.

(Motorbooks website)

Do I love it? Eh… it’s OK. I think there are some who’ll love it; others, not so much.

First off, you should know that it is not exclusively One Percent. It’s more like the Three Piece Patch Encyclopedia, but that probably wouldn’t have been so intriguing a title. There are varying degrees of information about the clubs with many of them being a sentence that indicates they’ve been of interest to law enforcement at some point in time. It’s clear upon reading where the author’s allegiance lies; one of the “Big Five”  seems to only have been mentioned because there would be a glaring hole otherwise.

A few all-female clubs have been mentioned, but Hayes is so apologetic about it, he should have just left them out. He states in the beginning that Christian clubs and clean and sober clubs have been excluded but then goes on to not only mention Phil Aguilar and the Set Free Soldiers (understandably so), but also the Black Sheep, which is a Christian club that ministers to HOG chapters. Of course this leaves me wondering why clean and sober clubs are so abhorrent, especially when you consider the reason those folks decided a change in lifestyle would be beneficial.

Despite there being some things that bugged me (it would be impossible to write this book without pissing virtually everyone off to some degree, at some point), there are interesting stories from other contributors. I particularly like the one about the Pagans outside the Outlaws clubhouse in Ohio, apparently a story never told before this book was published. Hayes has some good stories of his own. I found myself recalling fond memories (winning 3rd place in a chili contest hosted by the Yonkers Motorcycle Club, among others) that had been shoved into the archives of my brain.

“The One Percenter Encyclopedia” isn’t very well-named, and the content is on the heavily subjective side, but it is interesting and you’ll definitely learn something. The photographs of patches throughout the book and the literature review at the back of the book make it worth the price of admission. The book is available on the Motorbooks website for $29.99, or you can get it at Amazon for $19.79.


One Bad Bitch

February 20th, 2012

A couple of months ago I was contacted by Jen Berryhill, the owner of One Bad Bitch. She had just started a new feature on her site called “Fueled by Passion” and was interested in featuring me. I think she originally came to me because of a project I’m no longer involved in, but after I checked out her website and saw lots of cool stuff, I sent her my book so she could check it out.

There are a lot of women who ride out there. Not minimizing it, but what was once really bold for a woman is no longer such a big deal. Just as there are many different kinds of men who ride, so it goes for women. I had a feeling Jen and I were of the same mind. We talked a bit, and I asked her if I could do a book signing at her booth at the swap meet. It worked out well since she is now setting up two booths, one under the “Fueled by Passion” banner. It was perfect!

I went down on Friday to get my armband for the weekend and help set up. Also helping was a fiery young Ducati rider/racer named MoJo. It was fun to see all of One Bad Bitch’s offerings. They aren’t a simple “oh, look at me, I ride a Harley” kind of thing, but more of a “I’ll race you up the canyon, asshole” message. How could I not love a shirt with a long-haired female skeleton gripping her ape hangers with the message, “‘Til Death Do Us Part”? And even though I tend to be a low-bling girl, the rhinestones on the skeleton’s finger and eye are pretty cool.

I had a great weekend hanging with the One Bad Bitch crew. Jen’s husband Brian is a strongly supportive partner in the business. MoJo had way too much fun, to the delight of all who wandered by the booth, and I enjoyed soaking up her overflowing energy. Jen finally got around to reading my book and loved it, and she’s featured it on her Fueled by Passion column. One Bad Bitch is not simply a clothing company that did the market research for badass women’s clothing; she’s living it. Please visit her site and take a look around.


Another ride

January 30th, 2012

A friend of mine gives me a hard time about how much preparation I did for my first cross-country trip. It really was too much. In 2010 I took a second cross-country trip, this time going from Colorado to Vermont, down to Georgia, across to Texas, and back to Colorado. I was going to meet my granddaughter in Vermont who was born while I was on the road there. I wasn’t even sure if I was going to ride until three days before I left.

I wrote on that trip as well, posting to my 50 First Dates blog. I’ve wanted to pull it out and make it more accessible. Maybe I just want to relive being on the road while it’s the middle of winter. Regardless, I’m linking the entries from that trip to this post. They’ll open in the same tab, so when you’re done reading, you can hit the back button and come back for the next installment – if you’re so inclined. It’s somewhat of a sequel to Shovelhead Redemption.

I really wish I could be on the road again.