Wednesday, January 30, 2013

...and This Is Today

Yesterday was warm and sunny, with gentle breezes.

That was yesterday. This is today:

I'm at the little dot under all those colors, just above right of the top red dot.

We've had tornado warnings all morning. Warning means that one has been spotted, keep an eye out for more. After noon tornadoes hit north of here, overturning cars on the freeway. The freeway has been shut down and there has been at least one fatality so far. We're getting hit, and this one isn't a joke...unlike snow warnings in Atlanta.



Luckily the storm seemed to peter out a little around the office. The weather sirens were going off in a nearby city. I could hear them through the walls at work. (One rich city has warning sirens here.) There was a time when the wind and rain stopped dramatically (read suddenly) and the sky went a strange color of orange, green, and black. Then it suddenly moved on and softer rains came in.

I stayed at work until 4. The worst of it had passed over, but the yellow and red bands were between work and home. I was going home anyway. Wait too late and I would probably be caught in horrible traffic. I meandered my way home with only rain to keep me company. Sometimes it was heavy, other times light. Made it home in 1 hour 30 minutes. Only slightly longer than average. :) All was well at home. The detention pond in the front yard was full. Rare occurence lately. It has probably been full twice in the last five years. (Quite a difference from when it was full four times a year the first couple years we lived here.)

Oilburner stayed late at work and made it home safely as well.

I'll count my blessings and keep the less fortunate close to my heart tonight. Thank you, friends, for thinking of us.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

All Kinds of Wrong

Setting foot outside the front door and I am greeted with the wonderful smell of:

I wish we had smell-o-vision.  These are heavenly.

The front planter is presenting these:


The shrubs at the other end of the house are covered in these:


C still loves L


 The sky was a lovely blue:


The thermometer showed:


Come on!!! 66F at 6 p.m. on Jan 29!!!  And I'm stuck at work.  No riding for me.  The weather is supposed to get colder for the weekend.

I'll still have to hop on the bike.  Here's to hoping you can get away too.  :)

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Stable Groweth

As you are experiencing, there is this thing called life that we have to navigate. At times it seems easy. Other times kinda slap you around a little. And others knock you flat on your ass. I've just been experiencing a little slapping, but is has made me lazy.

I'm not going to attempt an all-out catch up. Too much and not enough has happened to warrant that. I will just try to move forward. :)

Long, long ago Oilburner picked up an older Honda XL600R in the hopes that I would start to pick up some off road riding skills. This was prompted by both our desires to eventually ride the Trans Labrador Highway. I'm completely game for this, but don't necessarily want to take the big, heavy GS, and without any experience. Since Oilburner learned, and grew up, on dirt bikes there isn't any concern on his skills.

So...we bought this fun little Honda that I can't start. It is a kickstart. For the life of me, I cannot kick it over. I did enjoy riding it the one time we took it out. I worried about stalling it, though. As that would mean we would both have to dismount the bikes and have Oilburner start the Honda. In addtion, Oilburner didn't feel comfortable riding the GS. He was too afraid of dropping, or dinging, it even though I tried to make it clear that I expected that would happen. (And would let it go. :-) )

So what to do??

Purchase another motorbike, of course!!

Introducing the Honda XR650L. Purchased for me since it has an electric start. I alluded to picking this beauty up in Sept over Labor Day weekend. The bike was in Iowa, but the shop selling it was going to New Jersey and Pennsylvania for an auction. We agreed to meet in Ohio for the exchange.

I won't bore you with all of the logistics of meeting up. There were a few changes in day or time, but we were all flexible and pulled it off without any problems.

The bike was wonderful! Well maintained, quick to start, nice to look at, and had a 37 inch seat height.

Yes. You read that right. 37 inches. My inseam is 30 inches. Long story short, Oilburner has changed the shocks and cut some height off the kickstand, effectively lowering it a couple inches. I can swing a leg over it if all of the stars are aligned, the motorbike is swathed in incense, and I am wearing prayer beads.

I've taken this beauty out and enjoyed riding her. But my very first attempt to get on resulted in a wonderfully executed tuck and roll on my part, and a little nap on the Honda's part. I was very aware of the height at all intersections, and very nervous over rocks.

I could probably force myself on the Honda. Learn dirt skills into the Honda's abilities. I did that with the street bikes when I purchased an 800cc motorbike when I really wanted to start on something smaller. But I don't want to do that this time around. I want to ease in and take this slowly.

What does that mean??

Introducing the Yamaha TW200.

While reading more blogs, someone had fallen in love with this TW200, describing it as a sleeper. No, that 200CC engine isn't going too fast on the freeways, but she is nimble and sure footed on the dirt. And best of all...I can flat-foot this little thing. Yay!!

Oilburner had been perusing the ads and saw this one up for sale about an hour away from us. We look Rogey along to look at the bike, and he was actually the first to get to ride it. I'm looking forward to taking this into the backwoods and having much less fear on the gravel with those huge tires and wonderful seat height.

She really looks like a miniature dirt-bike in the garage, surrounded by the monsters. But it just makes us laugh. to downsize...


Sunday, January 20, 2013

Book Review: Conversations With A Motorcycle

You might have surmised that I am woefully behind since I didn't post anything for so long.  Now it is finding the time to get fingers to keyboard to purge the sludge (hopefully coherently) from my brain.  There is one item that I am responsible for and pathetically late on.

Conversations With A Motorcycle by Jack Riepe

Long, long ago Dom of Redleg's Rides wrote an intelligent review of the book.  Due to some smartass comment I wrote, intimating how lucky he was to receive an advance copy, Jack contacted me.  It was time to shut up and put up.  Jack kindly sent me a copy of mine own.

One thing lead to another and I wasn't able to read the book in a manner that I could intelligently review on. I have and I have to pay for that trust.

I'm a strange one.  I am probably among a handful of women that actually enjoy Jack's profanity-laced, sexually-charged writing on his blog Twisted Roads.  (No, I am not getting paid to say that.)  There is something in the way he writes that just draws me in and I sit there laughing.  My husband gets annoyed with me reading passages out of context to him.

But to the book.  It is not written in the same tone as the blog.  It is a cohesive narrative into the life of a beginning rider that has two basic [conscious] ambitions: hot pillion candy and acceptance.

We are whisked along on Jack's first introduction to two-wheeled conveyances, and experience with him the moment he is smitten.  It is a feeling we will all remember, rider and non-rider alike. Along comes the introduction to the famed Kawasaki H2 "Widow Maker" and Jack's intrepid first miles on it.  Don't think that he worried about never having ridden before, recognize that his first thought was wishing the gorgeous girl across the street would be outside to notice him on his hot bike when he rode it home.  There is no missing that he bought the bike for one reason.

The story gains depth as we are introduced to the characters he hangs around, and the girls he wants to be involved with.  And we don't have any difficulty in understanding why some hold him in complete attempt.  The story isn't just about the pursuit of women, though.  Read between the lines to learn of the life and lessons that are learned.  There is an allegory in here that must be cracked.

While it is an easy read, I was having a difficult time trying to come up with how to review it. I am not a guy.  So I can't relate to that.  I did not get into motorcycling to attract girls.  So I can't relate to that either.  How am I supposed to think about this book?!?!  It finally hits me.  I relate to the motorcycle.  I'm pretty sure I would have the same remarks coming from me as the motorcycle said to him.

"It's not the destination, it's the ride."
"Don't bother with what other people think."
"If you have to try hard to fit in, you never will."
"What did you think would happen?"

Through so much of the book I had to groan at his setup to a situation.  I could see the outcome, why couldn't he?  His motorcycle would even spell out the error of his way, and he would blithely ignore it.

This book is incredibly well written to take a rider through motoring nirvana.  I am a ghost on my bike beside him as he leans the bike into a 100 mph curve.  I'm displacing the droplets of fog on an early morning run next to him on my whispering bike.  I'm enjoying the drop in air temperature as the road drops in elevation towards the river at the bottom of the valley.  I'm sitting across the table from him when he sees brunette #1 and the snake, watching the action unfold across his face.  I'm watching him across the fire, seeing him tinged in flickering light as he approaches brunette #2.

Jack is able to write in a way that pulls you into the book and brings you along.  No.  I may not relate to his 19 year old self, but I could relate to the riding.  As a rider, I can understand the aspects of the ride. I can revel in the immersion into the elements of the ride.  Jack is able to help me relive simple connections to my motorcycle that sometimes slip my mind.

After my fifth reading, the last half curled on a loveseat, looking through the blinds at an early gray morning, tiptoeing away from a warm bed, I can finally sink into the last chapters, and am left in a pensive mood over the baring of a soul.

I like the book.  Yes, there is still some vulgarity, hinted and obvious, that is "just Jack".  But I read it for the ride.  And it is a lovely ride.  :)

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Day 15 - Front Royal, VA to Otter Creek Lodge, VA

Yes, yes. I am sorry for the long silence. Life has been chaotic here. Oilburner and family continue to ask about the remaining days of the trip and I am attempting to get it written down. There are only a couple more days...and the last one is quite boring and will be exceedingly short. :) This, however, is not the last day. hehe (I promise this is the last long post, though.)

(Day 15 - July 27, 2012)


The day was beautiful. And we weren't going to make very good time if we continued to stop at every overlook. But we can't help ourselves. It is too pretty of a day. Yes it is warm at the base of the mountains, but up here the temp was about 10 degrees cooler and almost perfect.

Overlooks and Vistor's's all good. Of course, I snag my booty of books at the Gift Shop, while Oilburner gravitates towards caps and hiking stick pins. (He wants to see if he can attach them to the front forks instead of loading the motorbike up with stickers.)

We even took a little time to watch a new Ranger begin her presentation on the Black Bear.

Time marches on and so must our wheels. Shenandoah is 100 miles of scenic beauty. Yes, it seems alot like the Blue Ridge Parkway. But one of the books I picked up was the history of the land before the park was created. I looked on the area with an eye towards life here when people were making their livings off the land.

Reaching the south end of Shenandoah we jumped into the nearest city for lunch. Subway has been a mainstay for us on this trip. But my eyes spot an A&W. If I have ever been to one of these then I was too young to remember. And today Root Beer just sounded sssoooo good.

It was...EXCELLENT!!

Since I was taking forever to suit up, I sent Oilburner across the way to pick up a couple 5 hour energy drinks. When I finally pulled up to the door I had to laugh at the sign posted up. English classes are overrated anyways. :)

Oilburner and I are of a mind to spend time on the Blue Ridge Parkway again. We aren't in a rush this time. Or so we thought...

We can't agree on a place to stop for the evening. He was thinking Boone, TN. I'm pretty sure I will not be able to do the distance. We may have ridden the Parkway in two days last time. I'm just not up to that pace this time around. I was thinking Roanoke, VA might be good.

The decision is taken out of our hands.

We knew there was a chance for showers in this area. We just kept seeing the blue skies and not giving it much thought. I mean, we've ridden in the rain before. So what?

Let me tell you...big "what"... I'm a water baby. I love swimming or lounging or floating or lurking or kayaking in the water. I'll stay in water so long the depth of the wrinkles in my fingers and toes can be measured in millimeters. I'll walk in the rain, sing in the rain, dance in the rain. A rain storm doesn't perturb me.

We had stopped for a break, and not able to get any cellular connection on the iPad, we couldn't check the location of the storm. A text message had come into my phone from a friend watching our track, telling us the storm was near. The clouds were starting to cover the blue. And we decided not to put on the rain suits just yet. As we are preparing to leave we wave to two motorcyclists rolling by. They are important...

When we take a turn a couple miles up the road that finally brings us out onto the west slopes of the parkway, giving us our first look west in a long while, my heart plummets into my stomach and begins to burrow into my intestines.

There should be a beautiful view of the rolling hills across the wide valley 1500 feet below us. Instead we are looking at a massive rolling wall of the darkest grey imagineable. The part that impressed me the most was that it was below us! We actually observed the clouds shift and roll over the land toward us. Picture the billowing puffs of the leading edge of a sandstorm. It was like that, only black. It was rolling towards us and it was coming fast!!

I pulled into a turnout hoping Oilburner's camera was handy. (Mine was in the top box.) The 20 seconds it took him to fumble in his jacket convinced me that I didn't want to be sitting here when that wall engulfed us. I told him to forget the picture and took off. Yeah. We should have put the rain gear on. Minutes down the road the sprinkles started and the clouds could be seen rolling through the gaps. The next turn out was an exposed western overlook. Oilburner was able to get into his gear. I managed to get into my jacket and just said forget the pants. The rain was coming down hard and I wanted to get away from the exposure. I knew it wasn't an option to walk away from the bikes. Where could we have taken shelter from the lightning? I had known of two different people who were recently killed by lightning striking the tree they had taken shelter under (yes, away from the bike).

A turn down the road convinced me there was no "right" decision. Too much rain had gotten into my helmet and I couldn't see. The rain was coming down so hard I couldn't see. The wind was whipping the trees into a frenzy and leaves were whirling around like a tornado and I couldn't see. When branches started littering the road is when I started to seriously thinking about ditching the bikes to crawl down the mountain a little way.

Within 5 minutes the brute force died down and the rain stopped. Now we just had to avoid the downed trees and crazy drivers. Thankfully there weren't too many drivers. There were quite a few downed trees, though.

Another 5 minutes down the road and the Lodge at Otters appears. Hmmm...fate? Oilburner makes an executive decision to stay if they have a room. I don't disagree. Oilburner discovers that the couple that had passed us earlier had just checked in. They had gotten the brunt of the storm too and not faired as well. Hubby, in the lead, barely missed getting hit by a tree, by riding through the crown as it fell. Wife managed to hit the tree and fall off her bike. She was close to stopping, so no real damage. Thank goodness.

By the time Oilburner checked us in all of the clouds had cleared out and drifted away. It was almost making me regret our decision to stop. What's done is done and we are going to make the most of this and enjoy the evening.

The lodge is...interesting... It's from the 50's era and still lives there. Televisions do not exist, cellular coverage is non-existent, no phones, no radio's. (Please don't take that as a complaint, since I loved it.) I even think the air conditioner is original. There is even a bathroom tile with a slot for used razor blades! I grew up with medicine cabinets with razor slots, but I have never seen a tile. Surprisingly the beds are new and quite comfortable.

The heater works well to begin drying our gear. We're using every conceiveable space and Oilburner manages to optimize space. Gloves are draped over the lampshades. Boots are upended and wedged between the table and window directly above the heater. My jacket and pants are hung on the curtain rod above the heater, with the curtains pulled around them to trap the heat in a pocket. Since Oilburner managed to don his rain gear his armor wasn't too wet.

The room was harboring a few dead spiders and a severely musty smell. The smell was a well known issue since there was a "damp collector" and multiple air freshners in the room. The food at the restaurant was "so-so." The $29.95 AYCE (All-You-Can-Eat) Seafood bar was definitely not to my liking, in either taste or cost, but was definitely the freshest thing on the menu.

The evening lighting was spectacular and I was up for a walk around the lake, until the mosquitos decided that I made a great dining opportunity. We took shelter in the room and talked, looked at maps, and read the night away. The evening was blessedly uneventful and very restive.

More images can be seen by clicking here.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

And They Said It Wouldn't Last

...actually, some people were probably betting it wouldn't last. Some even were hoping it wouldn't. But it has.

Happy Anniversary!!


Amazing how quickly 20 years can go by. In the blink of an eye. But the memories have stacked up. They need to be pulled out a little more often, forgetting the rush of work and life today. :)

Thank you to my best friend. You make life fun and interesting. You allow me to be myself. And you help to make me a better person.

Here's to another 20.


Monday, January 7, 2013

Visitor From Afar...

There is something exciting and frightening about having a visitor that you have never met come to stay. The exciting part is actually getting to "see" someone face to face that you have been talking to through email, Skype, or phone calls for over a year. The frightening part is what are you going to do with this person while they are here and will you actually get along with them.

So Roger of All Things Rogey fame was coming to visit after Christmas. While he gave me months of warning, of course I wait to clean house until the last minutes. Which would have been semi-okay if that cleaning didn't actually cause the swapping of two rooms in the house. Oh well. Oilburner and I got as far as we could in the process and what would be, would be after that. No one ever died, in my house, of a few piles of magazines and a little dust. (My mother's mortification doesn't count...)

Right off the bat, Roger proves his usefulness by catching an earlier flight from L.A. Meaning that I could pick him up at 8 from the airport, instead of 10. Yeehaw. This also meant that we could take him to our favorite Malaysian restaurant for dinner. Too bad that was about the best food we ate for the time he was here.

Nothing was planned for Friday. Anticipating that he might want to sleep a goodly portion of the day. But a much delayed response to a text message (from before Christmas) had us scheduling a meeting with a bike in North Georgia. Roger was dragged along, getting to be the first person to ride this new, odd bike. He was also uniquely introduced to redneck, backwoods Georgia during mud and hunting season. Resulting in the start of many gun control discussions.

With his only nutritional requirement of the entire trip being "BBQ", we took him to a local joint for dinner that has given us mixed feelings. They did nothing to change our opinion of them this time around, unfortunately. The night was salvaged with a trip into downtown Atlanta to a great pub with live music. We had an in since a riding buddy is good friends with the musician. So during breaks we were regaled with stories from a recent Rock Cruise she was on.

Saturday saw us hitting the road for Savannah. One thing Roger has said in the past to me is the intrigue of being able to ride so many miles in a day due to our highways, interstates, and abundant land! Well...he was introduced to this first hand today. We took the longer, more scenic route going through much farmland and a few small cities. This gave him the opportunity to understand the distances the U.S. has to offer, with the wide open spaces. He promptly fell asleep, not enjoying the "boring" roads.

He perked up quickly though when he was given the opportunity to drive the rental car. Yeah, he wasn't gonna turn that one down at all. And he did quite well, negotiating a couple of turns, dealing with stop signs and stop lights.

Savannah is a beautiful city with so many things to see and do. We spent time shopping, looking around the squares at the architecture, taking the tour bus to save our footsies, and plenty of underwhelming food. Meh. Tourist season (for New Years) brought out the mediocre food.

The highlight of the trip was were we stayed. I found a cottage through AirBnB that was spectacular. Laura's Cottage, built in the late 18th Century, was a great backdrop for the trip. An original, authentic cottage, used in quite a few films, and featured on many local ghost tours. I found it interesting that we were staying in a cottage that was older than the inclusion of New Zealand into the fold of the British Empire (in 1840). Hmmm...

Remind Roger to tell you the story of his addition to the ghost tours...

We decided to change our plans and leave New Year's Eve instead of New Year's Day. This allowed us to set some fireworks off with a neighbor to ring in the New Year. Nothing says "Welcome" like blowing up some black powder.

New Year's Day was very wet, with rain all day. It was spent mostly indoors following Roger around the shopping mall. I was good for awhile and shopped a little. I picked some work pants and shirts out for Oilburner. (Don't say I never shop for you!) I had fun watching Roger's jaw drop at the sheer volume of camo gear and guns on display in Bass Pro Shops. He just couldn't get over the guns that could be touched, and that the gun counter was the busiest place in the entire store. After awhile I couldn't take anymore and roosted on benches outside of the stores while he went in and browsed. I swore he ditched me at the Nike store. I couldn't see how he was in there so long! But I wasn't about to go looking for him. He could text me when he was done.

Only one trip had to be made to the car to drop bags off. A second trip would have been in order, but we were so close to completing the loop of the mall. Instead, I offered to take the bags and let him finish the last shop while I waited in the car. lots of reading done. And Roger made up for the empty space and shallow poundage of his suitcase.

The rest of the days were a blur. Roger crossed state lines into Alabama to visit Barber Museum. We went to a local gun range and let him fire a couple handguns. (Take that second amendment, Roger!) Attended our local Shakespeare Tavern, preview night for "The Tempest". He was even allowed to swing a leg over the coveted R1200R bike...letting him ride a motorbike on the "right" side of the road. Poor guy, having to test a new bike on a new side of the road, with new rules for stop signs that are foreign to him, all under threat of death if anything happened to my bike. He performed rather well given the pressures. :)

Throughout all of this we talked, laughed, and drank. We swapped riding stories, riding roads, political views, second amendment rights, sports (woefully lacking on our side), independent wealth, and living a life on a bike. Roger, thank you for visiting and bringing a breath of fresh air, making New Zealand come alive. I hate you now that I have to go back to work, when all I can do is daydream about Lake Taupo, Cape Reinga, Mount Aspiring National Park, living off my bike while traveling across the U.S., heck traveling across the world.

Godspeed in your travels in San Francisco. I don't think it will be difficult for you. Hope to see you on your side of the pond rather soon. :)