Archive for the ‘Life’ Category

Finally arrived

Saturday, 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

Friday, 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.
[slideshow_deploy id=’122′]

Making a difference

Wednesday, 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.

One Bad Bitch

Monday, 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.


Let the new year begin

Sunday, January 1st, 2012

Looking over the last year, I’ve moved, moved, and then moved again, eventually ending back up where I started – out on the farm on the High Plains of near-Eastern Colorado (still well within view and driving distance of the mountains, but smelling distinctly of farmland in the summer time).

There has been some great stuff that happened this year, like finishing my book. I went for some good rides – about 15,000 miles total for the year. It doesn’t feel like I rode that much, but that’s what the odometer is telling me. Of course I didn’t have a car for a good part of the year, so maybe that’s where all those miles came from.

I fell in and out of love quickly. I came to the conclusion I’m in love with the idea of being in love. I am. I won’t try and deny it. I also know that I won’t try and force love if it isn’t there. Better to go through the short-term angst of “loved and lost” than being miserable for life. Still, it made for some lonely holidays, which brings me to that which hurts so much.

Webb RivardWebb, my friend and tattooist, was injured in Deadwood last year (2010) during the rally. It wasn’t a motorcycle wreck; he fell through a landing at a hotel in Deadwood. It screwed up his back, and he struggled with a lot of pain for the next year. In the middle of 2011, he started wasting away. Several visits to the doctor showed nothing, then suddenly he had cancer everywhere. It was at a fundraiser for Webb and his wife Vicki on October 6 at NoCo Studio that most of us found out about Webb’s condition.

Webb didn’t respond well to treatment and was sent home with hospice care. We knew he didn’t have a lot of time left, but I don’t think anyone expected him to pass so quickly. Shortly after midnight, on December 23, he passed away. The morning before he died, Vicki was very sick with Pancreatitis and ended up in the hospital. She hadn’t left his side before this, and it’s heartbreaking that she was not with him. I’ve spent a lot of time with her since then. I wish I knew what to say to make it better, but there is nothing. All we can do is pray that Vicki is able to heal and see the beauty in life again.

Today, New Year’s Day, I took Vicki to the Vineyard Church in Fort Collins to discuss funeral arrangements with Pastor Mark. I learned how Webb got his name, and it’s not what you think. I fought back tears and watched them fall freely from Vicki’s face as we talked about how getting a tattoo from Webb was more than just ink. I’m grateful I was able to get some beautiful cherry blossoms as one of his last works of art. And since I’m getting all teary-eyed again, I’ll leave it at that. The service is on Wednesday, January 4th at 2PM.

Praying for love, health and many care-free miles for everyone in 2012.