Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Hey. Maybe Just a Smile.

It's been weighing heavily on my mind that I haven't been doing any solo riding lately. The last solo ride that really sticks out in my mind is my Savannah trip in Nov 2009. That was a long time ago...

Why don't I ride on my own more?  Well, I have one of those more unique situations in that my husband also rides.  Therefore I have a built in riding partner.  And since we don't work weekends we don't have any scheduling conflicts.  Many people with standard riding partners have to negotiate a ride destination, meet location, meet time, wrap up time, etc.  We merely wake up in the morning, look at each other and ask "Where do you want to go?"  Of course, I should point out that this doesn't automatically make life easier and give us all the answers.  Quite often the response from one of the other of us is "I don't know.  Where do you want to go?"

The point is that 99% of the time I have an automatic riding partner.  It is difficult to say that I want to ride to ride alone today.  Generally I enjoy his company and don't necessarily feel compelled to ride alone.  However, I believe it is very important for women to ride alone every once in a while.  Of course, some of my female blog buddies don't have a choice.  SonjaM jumps immediately to mind as a strong female rider who regularly rides solo for various reasons.

Mr. Oilburner and I belong to a couple of riding groups.  Not necessarily to ride with, but definitely to get together to chat with and relive wonderful or harrowing riding moments.  But I belong to one other that Mr. Oilburner doesn't, and that is a women only group.  I have only been on one ride with them and enjoyed it.  It is liberating to remove the testosterone from the equation. While walking around at our destination, or eating lunch, we giggled and had the chance to get a little catty, but in a nice way.  :)  Just being with girlfriends that all happen to ride.

On a regular group ride I have typically been the only girl, or the only girl riding my own bike.  To be honest I actually take pride in that at times.  I don't ride with a "soft" crowd and enjoy being "one of the guys."  Tough enough to hang out with this crowd without them having to tailor rides to my riding abilities or slow down for me.  Sometimes that is scary as I push my limits.  But it also helps me to grow.

I grew up a tomboy.  I climbed trees, rolled in the mud with the dogs and felt fidgety when put in a frilly dress.  I can hold my own in most male pissing contests, figuratively speaking.  But I do have the inkling that they may still be holding back a little around me.  I think the boys can get much raunchier when they get together then us girls give them credit for.  So sometimes I may "cramp" their style a little.

All of this helps to round out my riding experiences.  But there is something important to riding alone.  I knew this as I was learning to ride and forced myself outside of my comfort zone.  My very first solo ride occurred after work one day.  I wanted to overcome my fear of rush hour traffic, riding alone and riding alone in it.

I'll let you in on a little secret.  I was not one of those people that just hopped on my first bike and immediately started riding 50 miles.  A four mile day had me worn out from the stress of turns and cars and stops on hills.  My "practices" including riding down one of three neighborhood roads to the church parking lot.  The lot literally circled the church.  Eureka!  No U-turns!  :)

By the time of my first solo ride I was probably up to 40 miles rides.  Big whoop now, but that was huge back then.  So I saddle up, with butterflies in my tummy, and realize I need fuel.  Yay...  :(  There is nothing like self-imposed pressure to not fuck up when witnesses are around.  And we usually fail at looking cool or being inconspicuous.  This was my first, and so far only, time that I have forgotten to put the kickstand down on my bike.  (Thank goodness it was the crappy Suzuki.)  While Mr. Reipe has written more eloquently about his experience, I only strained the muscles in my back successfully preventing an all out drop.  I managed to save the bike and learn two valuable lessons.  One:  Remember to PUT THE DAMN KICKSTAND DOWN! Two:  If the bike is going over LET THE DAMN BIKE GO!

Ok.  In 99% of the situations that may be good advice.  I can think of a couple where self-preservation will kick in and prevent your brain and body from giving up. One: your gonna go ass over tea kettle down a slope.  Two: your inexpensive little bike going down will go right into a very expensive bike or car that is worth more than your life.  I decided to screw the fuel and continue on my way.  I would probably only be going 5 miles anyway...

I survived the journey with one other near drop negotiating a u-turn. Once you mess up it really can be difficult to clear your head and convince yourself it isn't going to continue on like this.  But I did survive and learned many valuable things.  I love that it teaches me that I am stronger, mentally, than I think and that I can actually accomplish what I set my mind to.  (Now if I could recognize that I can do this for others things in my life!)

Back to the present. Circumstances aligned and i was going to be left to my own devices a weekend or so ago.  The weather was perfect, the sun was shining, I couldn't not go for a ride.

Where to go??

Unfortunately, I am one of those destination oriented people.  I love the journey, but need to have a destination to travel towards.  I don't have to actually make it to the destination, but it gives me a direction.  And I couldn't think of one darn place that I wanted to go.  The Georgia Tag was 600 miles (966 km) round trip away.  The North Georgia Tag was in some heavy-duty dirt.  And I didn't want to go to the motorcycle show in Greenville, SC.  Dilemma.

I forced myself to the group breakfast for the people meeting to ride to Greenville for the show.  I know that if I didn't actually leave the house that the chances were very good that I wouldn't leave all day.  Breakfast was good, having the chance to catch up with someone I hadn't see for a year.  And there was some good-natured ribbing of someone and his pink phone.  Everyone tried to shame me into riding to Greenville.  The pressure was very easy to resist.  


There was still the problem of "where to go" as I watched the troop ride off.  I'm pretty sure most people have a "fallback" location they come up with when asked to quickly identify a favorite place, off the top of their head without thinking.  What would you name?  My fallback location is Homer, Georgia.  I just like the name and all of the roads leading to it.  Homer it is.

I jumped on the interstate just to clear the jumble of stop lights and people of the city.  But I jump off the interstate at a location that will take me into the rural areas.  I keep an eye on the GPS just to steer me in the correct direction, but not dictate how to get there.  Since I don't ride alone regularly, I have found there is a "clearing" process that takes place.  Suddenly that "little voice inside my head" that is Mr. Oilburner is gone.  I am going to have to do my own thinking!  What do I want to think about??  But relaxing into the ride is easy.  Just let the mind wander in its thoughts and enjoy the scenery.  Today, the struggle to decide to stop and install my liner to combat the windchill is my struggle alone.  Don't get me wrong, this also isn't easy.  I am stubborn and can be even more stubborn when it is myself I have to fight with.  :)

It turns into a successful day.  I stopped to put my jacket liner in and was happily surprised to find myself here:



If I hadn't stopped I wouldn't have recognized it, traveling in the direction that I was.  If I hadn't stopped I would not have taken the unknown road to the East.  If I hadn't taken the Eastern road, I wouldn't have come across the church house:




I rode through Homer and just started making my way home again.  I turned into all of the back roads.  Saw McMansions next to burned out husks of old homes.  I saw Spring Daffodils and men on their John Deere garden tractors tilling their land.   I saw young kids playing in front yards.  And I didn't once have a Stephen King moment.

Yeah.  It was a good day to reconnect with myself and force myself to make my own decisions.  But I was also responsible for this relaxed and tranquil girl that was headed home with a smile on her face.



  1. Steel Cupcake:

    that BIG BLACK BIRD was scary, and I love Pink phones too.

    that looks like a neat small town. I wished we had more of them here. Being by yourself you have to be more cautious, and ride more safely.

    often I look at old decrepid buildings and wonder about the people who used to live there, what happened to them, and why they left.

    It nearly looks like Spring

    Riding the Wet Coast

  2. Excellent LOri, I think you have sum up riding alone very well. Great pics to. Remind me never to go out on the turps with you, once we start on those Tequila shots, I have the feeling you will be standing long after I have collapsed.

  3. Nice, thoughtful post. And I did end up reading the Savannah posts as well. When riding by yourself, you are generally free to poke along and stop where ever you want. That's what I miss the most the few times I've ever ridden in a group. With others, I feel like we are in a real rush to get somewhere (usually lunch).

    I took many of those short rides when first starting out and as soon as I can get out again, one of the first places I head to is a large, empty parking lot to practice slow speed turns. At least if I can find one without any sand & gravel.

    Was the bird real or something someone put up? I couldn't see any legs...


  4. Great post Lori.

    Troubadour and I have the same troubles sometimes deciding where to ride. It is the 'I dunno' and the 'I don't care' and the 'you pick' that gets us. We've decided we are just too polite to each other.

    I too like to have a destination before I leave the house and that can be annoying for some.

    Awesome pictures too, thank you for sharing.

  5. Very entertaining read, loved it. I should do more riding alone, gives you time to stop and take your time taking pictures. Love the black bird and the last picture is just perfect, the 4 trees lined up with your bike in the background :-)

  6. Love the buzzard over the "remains" of the chimney.

    I really do prefer to ride alone for the reasons you mention -- I ride at the rides pace not mine and not at someone else's.

    Another great post!

  7. Lori, did I mention that I love your bike? It is the perfect model for this scenery. I will definitely test-ride the R1200R this spring, even if it might be to early to upgrade just yet.
    I had to laugh out loud when you talked about your little mishaps. Been there, done that.

    Come summer and longer trip planning I will team up with other riders again, although I kinda like my solitude. My plan is to join a lady's riding group, which will make it easier to find a partner to share a room with (I don't think my hubby would like me sharing a room with a guy...) and who knows, maybe I can convince my better half in the end to join the two-wheeled squad.

  8. Hi Bobskoot:

    I didn't notice that vulture right off the bat. When I finally did notice him, he had been eyeing me for some time, gauging if I could be on the dinner menu. Blech!

    I wonder those things too. With this economy so many houses are starting to fall into that category. Makes me wonder about visiting Detroit...

    Spring is almost upon us. :)

    -Steel Cupcake

  9. Hi Raftnn!

    No offense to Oilburner, but yes, sometimes it is very enjoyable to be on your own with your own thoughts.

    Bring on the shots/wine/liquor! As long as the beach is in the background and there is a sunset in there somewhere. We can see how lasts longest! :)


  10. Hi RichardM!

    You said it quite well. I've danced around the "need to get someplace" in the group ride, but never really conceived/verbalized the words, just the feel.

    Glad you practice your skills after the winter. I'll do that through parking lots here every once-in-a-while. That at we play "dodge 'em" on the roads for quick maneuvering.

    That bird was real. I think his next was up there given the amount of guano around it. He was actively watching me and moving around. Made me wish I had the big camera.

    So where is your "fallback"?

    Thanks for reading the Savannah post. I failed to post to the subsequent posts. But the most amusing was Long Delay post. Let's you see some of the southern mentality and horrible planning on my part. :)


  11. Hi Trobairitz!

    Yes! You are right. I forgot about the "I don't care" part too. Sometimes one just doesn't know where they want to go, just as long as they are on the bike. :) So how do you both figure out that one?

    I think our fallback on that one is something to have lunch.

    Any news on the Gladius?? Inquiring minds... ;)


  12. Hi George F:

    You don't get much alone time? I thought some of your long distance trips gave you some good thinking time.

    Thanks for the kind words on the pictures. those were actually about all I took for the day. It was too nice being out to stop. :)


  13. Hi Circle Blue!

    That buzzard was interesting. I could tell he wasn't terribly happy I was there, but wasn't getting too upset yet. I just couldn't believe how big he was!!

    Your pace and stops and images and quick finds inspire me. I try to stop more. It is easier to do that when alone. Otherwise I feel like I am slowing Oilburner up. Not that he wants to go fast...just my own projection. :)


  14. Hi SonjaM!

    I think you would enjoy the R1200R. And look darn good on it. Not enough of us RR riders out there. :)

    Jeez, wasn't learning fun...but if we can't laugh at ourselves...and that blather... :)

    The long rides this summer sound like fun. I highly recommend the female riders group. It is a completely different dynamic and very fun. Are there many in the Pacific Northwest? Hubby would probably be much more inclined to let you go with the women. :) But maybe you could push for the Piaggo three-wheeler? Or the Spyder? to entice him to join in?

    Good luck!


  15. I think my "fallback" is to head down the Parks Highway towards Denali National Park. For the first 50 miles you are on a ridge overlooking the Tanana Valley to the south. At the end of the hills is a favorite lunch destination, the Monderosa. Great burgers. If you want to continue the park entrance is about another 70 miles.


  16. Richard:

    Oh! Wow!! Amazingly Google Street View actually has the routed for most of the distance. I love the bridge in Nenana. Looks like there were some fires to the south the day the route was taken. Great visibility. Mondersa that little white building? Good burgers you say? hmmm... :)

    Thanks for sharing. I'll have to get up there some day.


  17. Lori - managed to get the Gladius home on Saturday. Was a surprise when we got the call Saturday afternoon that it was ready.

    Getting a post together about it but haven't taken any pics yet. Stay tuned.

    Hope you are getting more sunny days for riding. Love reading your ride reports combined with the awesome photos and of course your sense of humor.

  18. I don't know. Where do you want to go? We play that game every weekend!

    I like riding alone. I can speed up or slow down according to my own whims. If I do ride with others it's usually just Ron and maybe our son or a few friends. Most of my solo rides are pretty close to home.

    Great shots of the church house, but that bird on the chimney...I'd say you did have a Stephen King moment.

  19. Lori
    Good post!

    I saw Sonja's comment and almost thought "I would like to join a Lady's riding group too", but then I thought "No, I would never be able keep up with the pace".

    Panic over


  20. Lori,
    Great pics and a good read. I enjoy riding solo much of the time to clear the mind and not worry about anyone else and their agenda. The only problem with deciding where to go for a day trip is - I've been everywhere close by and venturing out requires an overnighter. Another cool thing you will find riding alone is the interesting people that will engage you in conversation about your bike and ride.

  21. Hi Trobairitz!

    I've loved seeing images of the Gladius! Can't wait to hear what you think of her on your favorite routes!

    I appreciate the kind words! Sometimes I'm just trying not to let the crazy shine through. :)


  22. Hi Bluekat!

    I think the wordplay is a fluid little dance. Sometimes it is smooth and ends well. Sometimes there are four left feet walking along.

    Riding alone clears the mind, doesn't it? Why are your solo rides close to home? Mine generally aren't because close to home stays in the stoplight zone. hehehe

    You might be right about that bird...he kept eyeing me... :) I would be more scared if I encountered it in one of your foggy cemeteries.


  23. Hi Nikos!

    I have a male friend with a long ponytail flying in the breeze...made an honory girl in a girl riding group. There might be some good benefits...

    And you don't need to keep up if you have something that will make them wait...

    Just need to look at it from a diffferent angle! :)


  24. Hi Jonesy!

    I've run into the same problem with being everywhere nearby. But our nearby is surrounded with stoplights too!

    So what is preventing you from taking that overnighter every once in awhile?

    I enjoy talking with people too. But in some areas around here they just kinda stare in furtive glances...girls on big bikes seem to be intimidating! :) Cuz it couldn't be me. Could it??