Thursday, March 22, 2012

Just Call Me Puddles

"Oh Mother of God. What the hell...ooowwwww jeez. Is there any place that doesn't friggin hurt??"  If it's this painful just soaping up my knees, screw my toes.  They aren't getting washed today.

We haven't had the chance to ride much lately.  A quick trip to Cycle Gear.  Dinner with the Adventure Riders.  40 miles here or there.  Knowing we could get on the bikes this weekend was exciting.  The rain was finally surrounding the weekend...not ruining it.

Dinner at Zuffy's a couple nights back.  The proof that RichardM requested.

Since it had been so long since we have really ridden, I was thinking a nice, leisurely ride to get back into the groove and just take things easy.  Oilburner was thinking it was time to hit the dirt.  It wasn't exactly my ideal ride, I didn't want to have to "think" while riding.  But it was going to make him happy.  I still get the luxury liner GS and he has dibs on the Honda.  he he.

Friday was a late night.  We had been drooling over possible routes to the IMBC2012 in Eastern Oregon.  When we actually drug ourselves out of the house it was nearly lunchtime.  I proposed an old stand-by in the mountains that we used to visit while four-wheelin' in the Jeep.  The idea was enthusiastically accepted.  So I was thinking the jaunt to lunch, a spin around a mountain or two and then home, neat as you please.  We didn't "have" to touch dirt if we didn't want to.

Yeah.  Right.  Like that was really gonna happen.

We did make it to our lunch spot.  Nothing special.  Just Moe's ("Welcome to Moe's").  But we haven't eaten here in over a year.  We sat there enjoying the sun, realizing the day was just too perfect to content ourselves with a small run.

We started thinking of our beloved mountain trails.  Mountains and dirt roads and hiking trails that we had abandoned four years ago when I began obsessing about motorbikes.  What better time to reacquaint ourselves with some old haunts on two most capable bikes?  So yes.  We headed into the land of dirt, gravel, and trees at 2:00 pm, still an hour and a half from home.

At one point in time Oilburner offered to trade bikes while on asphalt.  I told him I would, if I could kick start the darn thing.  I hadn't had any luck in the past, but was game to try again.  No such luck...  I was sweating in my helmet and jacket.  Panting like a dog sitting in 100F heat.  Nope.  No Honda for me just yet.

I was true to my word and handed over the GS to more experienced hands.  I took over the Honda as soon as we hit the dirt.  Be damned that I couldn't turn the kick start over.  I would rather take a tumble from the light weight baby Honda than the might, heavy GS.

OK.  I can do this.  My first foray into dirt.  (for this is what I do consider my first.  I do not count the afternoon spent on Oilburners mid-80's Honda on the sandy washboard roads on California BLM land in a time before helmet laws.) Oh if only I had a helmet then...  Where I could be now??

Well manicured gravel.

So...this isn't so bad.  Yeah, there is ALOT of loose gravel and very little dirt.  And when I say loose?  Very loose, deep, not compacted at all, recently laid type of loose gravel.  Yeah, the bike was skating around a little.  I tell myself to keep my speed down, kept the weight on the pegs, steer with my feet, don't pull the handlebars, and [darn it] don't use the front brake.

That's just way too much rolling back and forth in my head!!

We finally traverse the scariest 2.5 miles of my recent life and approach a crossroad:  Cooper's Gap.

Great.  Just what I need, having to make a hard turn, on dirt, with an audience of 15 Appalachian Trail thru-hikers milling about.  I look left: where most of the hikers are congregated.  I look right: downhill.  Oh hell no!  I would rather face the laughter and applause that would result when I dump myself and my bike in front of hikers than ride downhill!

I toddled along at my normal 20 mph rate just getting comfortable with all these new thoughts and experiences.  Until I encountered another twisty downhill on ball bearings.  My thighs were clamped to that gas tank so tightly I'm surprised I didn't find "Honda" tattooed on them.  I finessed my way with the rear brake...and lived to tell the tale.  By now I was starting to have a little fun.  I still wasn't looking around and enjoying any scenery, but fun none the less.

I remember when I was first learning to ride.  You remember...when 35 mph was like screaming down the lane with your hair on fire?  The world consisted of handlebars, front tire, and the road in front of me for the next 250 feet.  (If the road was straight.)  I conceived of obstacles only when I had to assess how much damage they could do to me if I hit it.  When Oilburner would ask if I was having fun, my standard answer was "Of course not!  I'm learning to ride dammit!  I don't have time to look at the scenery!  Now stop bugging me!"

Yeah, he got that answer again in the forest.  :)  Only this time it wasn't the road 250 feet ahead, it was only 50 feet.  How can I see where the rocks and holes are in the road, distinguishing them through all of the off again on again lanky shadows of trees?

So do you see my problem?

Once I finally realized that it is actually okay to hit most of those rocks and holes things started getting better.  Such a strange, and difficult, thing to overcome.  I mean, learning to ride on the street we are told gravel and rocks are the enemy; avoid at all costs!  Potholes are bad! But on a dirt bike?  No problem!

Hickory Flats Cemetery and Campground.  I kid you not.

Once my sense of self preservation shifted I actually did begin to enjoy myself.  Yes, I am still wussing out on the "manicured" forest service roads.  So we decide to head up to the cemetery, on a slightly less well maintained road.  This road has less loose grave, less traveled.

Here the fun starts in earnest.  Once I learned rocks can't hurt me I veered to hit every single one I could, that wasn't the equivalent of climbing a rock face.  I prefaced my intentions by yelling "ROCK!" in my helmet, then proceeded to giggle like a school girl when that nerdy boy trips over the chalk line of the football field.

There was a constant litany of "Rock!  he he he haw he" over Oilburners speakers.  A veritable laugh track from He-Haw.

But boy-oh-boy...add the water puddles!!  I am now in hog heaven!

I love water puddles.  I can't tell you just how much I love water puddles.  (Oilburner will be nodding his head vigorously as he reads this.)

I'm that girl that enjoys walking in the rain.  I will go out of my way across a parking lot to jump, planting both feet, into any puddle I can find.  I don't care if my shoes and pant legs get soaked.  I'll be laughing.  And heaven help you if you are anywhere nearby.  You are going to get wet, so watch out.

In Southern California, the land of no rain with torrential 5-minute downpours that fill up the drainage system so quickly that the street drains can't hope to catch up, blocking the outside lane of the streets kind of deluge.  I drove a 4x4 Blazer and had no fear of that lane. While people were crawling along in the inside lanes, I was flying through 8 inch deep rivers in the outside lanes, kick up SHEETS of water.  I discovered the cost of my glee in the grinding of a rusted out starter much later.  Meh...what's the cost of a starter compared to that fun?

Yeeaaahhh...there were puddles on this road...

My new war cry became "Rock!!  he he he... Puddle! (insert evil laughter here)."

It was only on the way back out that I conceived of maybe stopping with my rear tire in the puddle to attempt creating a rooster tail of mud to tag Oilburner with.  (And no, I didn't care if it also hit my bike.)  But I wasn't yet sure enough of my proverbial footing to attempt a "burnout" on the throttle.  I contented myself with making as much mess as I could for my abilities now.  The rest will come in time.  (BBbbbwwwwaaahahahahaha.)

Super Man!

As soon as we reached paved road again I was stopped and insisting on getting the GS back.  Only 30 miles of dirt, but it was a great time.

Time to change back to my GS...  :)

The overall trip was tempered by the erratic, undependable kick start on the Honda.  Sometimes it would start within the first couple kicks (for Oilburner).  Sometimes it took a couple minutes of trying.  I was reluctant to stop for photographs fearing it might stop for good in the middle of the forest.

The forest was fine.  The problem occurred on the way home.  We were on the highway to speed things along for a couple miles knowing we would need to fuel the Honda soon.  We just didn't realize how soon with the toll the highway speed was taking.  We made it to the top of the off-ramp where we actually were going to exit, when the Honda suddenly went quiet.  No warning even??  Flipping over to reserve, and no amount of kicking or swearing would alleviate the quietness of that engine.  The good news?  There is a gas station, on the right, on the other side of the overpass.  Exactly opposite where we were. And hey, it was mostly dowhill-ish to it.  The bad news?  Gonna have to push...  My multiple sclerosis training came in very handy as I was able to run behind him, flashers blinking.

We fueled up, it started up.  I didn't want to tempt fate by turning it off.  I just wanted to continue home.  We were still 45 minutes from home.  After the grunt labor Oilburner wanted to take a breather.  Yeah...that "breather" lasted about half an hour as he wailed and wailed on that kick start to no avail.  He thought he was tired and thirsty after pushing the machine for 300 yds?  He was plum worn out and breathless after trying to start it.

We eventually made it home, well after dark, and very grumpy with the machine and a few near misses with cars on the way home.  Since then Oilburner has replaced the chain, sprockets, chain guides, pulse generator (for that pesky kick starter), stator, and a couple other parts I can't remember.  The inside of the engine is very clean and has been well maintained in the past.  The new pulse generator means it usually starts on the third kick...for him.  I haven't yet tried my luck at it again.

Look how clean its guts are!

Pulse Generator

As for those 30 miles and thigh tight death grip?  Oh my goodness I was damn sore the next morning!!!  The toes did not get washed.

Basking in the sun of the day.

Sparkling dust.  If only it were solid gold.

Dirty, sandy, grimy, gritting chain.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Did Someone Say Spring?

Yes.  I know.  I owe you all posts on a couple different trips.  But you are just going to have to wait a sec.  Everyone has gotten into the Spring Wishes as today was the Northern Hemisphere's Vernal Equinox. So I wish you all the same.

I know that some of you are still caught in the dire grips of winter with snow still on the ground, evidenced in RichardM's Ice Sculpture trip the other day.  Bobskoot is still scraping ice off of the windshield in the morning.  Trobairitz and Troubadour are luckily seeing signs, but are still being caught in rain showers.

So what is Atlanta seeing in times of Spring?


Sex in the form of pollen everywhere!

For those of you with allergies this might be a little scary.  So sit with a box of tissues nearby.

First...this is our Pollen Count for March 20, 2012.

Let me emphasize...  nine thousand three hundred sixty-nine!!!  (See...getting sex in there...)

For those unfamiliar with allergies and pollen problems, a count of 400 is consider dangerous to allergy suffers.  So what exactly does a count of 9000 mean to them?!?!  Today and yesterday absolutely shattered the records set in 1999 of a mere 6000+.

Wanna know what is causing all of this?

Chinese Holly Grape







Dandelion.  Does anyone know a good recipe for Dandelion Wine?  ;)

Sweet Gum Tree



Still trying to find out what this is...

Golden Rain Tree

And this is the culprit that is turning EVERYTHING a lovely shade of yellow-green right now...


Sorry.  Couldn't convince him to write "Charlotte".

Evidence of pollen

Guarding the back yard.

Ants are active early this year.
I wish you a happy and healthy Spring (here in the Northern Hemisphere).  Hopefully with less inhalable evidence of the natural world proliferating.  But with lots of color and beauty surrounding you. 

Now tell me...where would you rather be?  :)

Monday, March 19, 2012

Teaser Post

OK.  I'm still making my attempt at a first pass over the photos.  Slow going...  And the video looks like it will suck due to condensation inside the GoPro housing.  Oilburner and I haven't been having much luck with GoPro's lately.

I am posting this short little video of the driveway of the Bed and Breakfast that we stayed at.  This driveway was DAUNTING!  You can't tell in this direction, but the other side is a very steep drop off, with single lane twists, turns and roller coasters.

Time Stamp 41s...that is the roof of a three story house on the left...

But you just have to listen at time stamp 56s.

Can you guess what it is??

Friday, March 16, 2012


Plans were laid.  Routes were uploaded to the Garmin's.  Reservations at a cute little B&B procured.

We were going to do Cherohala Skyway and The Dragon the "proper" way.  In the past we have always rushed through the miles and the day to make it round trip home again.  This time we were going to slow the day down, stop and smell the spring flowers, run Cherohala one day, stay at a little bed and breakfast centrally located, run the Dragon the next, and actually hit a new road through Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  A road that we have wanted to do for years and haven't been able to.

It just wasn't meant to be...

A not-so-little landslide on the Dragon.  No one was hurt, but it will be closing the most sought after road in the area for a couple of weeks.

This isn't a heartbreak for us.  After all, we have ridden this a couple times.  It's just that it was the shortest route to get us around and over to the Smokies and headed back home in the proper sequence.  Now we have to navigate the Smokies south to north...then find an easy way to head south again.

It went from something like this:

View Larger Map

To maybe something like this:

View Larger Map

Or maybe we will wile away the day and ride through Cades Cove:

View Larger Map

I don't know.  If we spent our time in Cades Cove, we just might have to head back and hit the last few miles of the Blue Ridge Parkway again.  Wow.  Life would be rough.  :)

I hope that your weekend will allow for some good riding plans that pan out.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Spring Has Sprung

I was working on another post when I discovered Trobairitz's challenge.  If it were NIGHT outside I would prove that spring has already begun visiting the South.  The Tulip trees are blooming.

I purchased some indoor Tulip bulbs to cheer up my office space.

And I managed to snap a couple of photos from the webcam at home.

My Witness Protection picture

A little too much bubbly?
Cousin It comes to visit. 
Did this qualify?  ;)

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Ego Boost

Yeah...I haven't been able to spend much one on one time with any bike recently. So the excitement started to increase as I contemplated riding over to a new adventure riding meetup group dinner. Of course, I left work an hour late. And I also had to go to the market for necessities. So I arrived home at 7. Threw the groceries in the kitchen. Put the perishables in the appropriate fridgerated compartment. Left the remainder strewn all over the floor and counters. Slipped my sweaty feet into leather boots. Threw my jacket over my shoulder, grabbed my helmet and ran to the garage.

It is an adventure riding group. I have to take the GS. It is the adventure bike after all. Unfortunately the tank is absolutely empty.

Get the bike out of the garage, close the house and hop on the bike. The new gas station around the corner seems like the perfect stop.

Hop on the freeway at 7:20 and enjoy a spirited ride to arrive someplace 20 minutes 10 minutes. ;)

Didn't quit make it on time, but no matter...the ride was enjoyable.

I consider losing a little face as I have to make a couple of circuits of the parking lot as others watch on. I just can't decide where to attempt to squeeze the bike in. But it isn't worth feeling chagrined about. I've got one HOT bike. And all eyes are on us. Hehe

I don't know. I just can't help but feeling a huge ego boost when I am one of only three girls in a sea of 20 guys...and the only rider. Oh yeah, baby.

And I didn't even get stuck in the garage when I arrived home to stable the steed. :)