22 July 2014

Women, Motorbikes, Solo Traveling and Other People's Paranoia

A week ago, I finished my first solo motorbike trip consisting of more roads than just those in Colorado. This was a pretty big deal for me, and though I was certain I would be nervous as I set out, the nerves quickly melted away. The freedom to follow my own path, ride my Titan Blue German steed, see people I love and meet new ones, lay before me like the blank screen of my blog waiting for me to share my stories with you.

Most of my stories tell of the great times I have and the great people I meet. Occasionally, there are posts like the ones where I bitch about BMW dealers/shops outside of my home ones, but for the most part my experiences are fun and upbeat. I'm not editing my life for my readers--this is how my riding, traveling, and life experiences in general tend to be. I made the conscious decision a number of years ago to be as positive about life, people, and experiences as I could be, but it doesn't mean I'm blind to ignorance, danger, or just plain unkindness.

Occasionally I wrench on my bike. It has certainly come in handy when I've been on the road alone and needed to fix something. As it turns out, my engineer brain is completely cut out for this kind of stuff.

I have heard it said, over and over by seasoned solo travelers--trust your instincts. I suppose it is true no matter who the traveler is, but I hear this regularly from happy, successful female travelers the most. As a woman on a motorbike, riding alone, I meet A LOT of people. Men and women, motorcyclists and non-motorcyclists seem to come out of nowhere to ask me about my bike, about my trip, about my stickers, or simply to share their story with me. I love this; I don't do well with large groups of people, and I can't say I often feel really comfortable with these new people I meet, but I'm always thankful for the experience I've had when it's done. And sometimes, (it's pretty rare, but it does happen) I meet people who stick with me, who I want to keep in touch with, who I want to meet again the next time I'm in their space or they're passing through mine.

I was on the road for a couple of weeks, riding through five states: Colorado, Utah, Nevada, California, and Arizona (yes, it was only 30 miles of AZ, but I'm claiming it, dammit!). Of the approximately 3000 miles I traveled, the number of highways and cities I saw, and the many people I met and chatted with, I only had one bad experience. Only one person on this trip made me feel uncomfortable, and to be honest, a little threatened. I can't say what it was in particular about him that made me feel this way, but my instinct told me to avoid this person.

He stayed at the same campground I did in Zion, and stopped to talk to me about my bike and my travels when he passed by one evening. His name was Barry and he rode a shiny red Harley, towing a trailer behind. He was walking around the campground in jeans with no shirt, all tatted up, looking pretty pleased with himself, and he was shocked to find I was traveling alone--that my family would LET me do that. He then proceeded to tell me about the one other solo female rider he had met. He had asked her if she carried protection and she told him no. He then informed me that she must have been a felon and unable to buy a piece, and said, "You carry a piece of protection, right?"

I looked him directly in the eye and said, "No. I carry two." I didn't feel I was necessary to tell him I was carrying bear spray (for bears) and my knife, which I primarily use for cutting rope. Or a ribeye. That was none of his business--let him wonder.

I didn't see him again that day or evening, as I was away for the evening, returning after dark and avoiding his section of the campground. I felt safe there, no one was going to fuck with someone in a national park campground. But his presence made me feel uneasy, and the next morning, the morning I was supposed to leave, I contemplated staying one more night in the park. As I looked at my map to see what the next two days of riding would be like, Barry came into my campsite and sat, uninvited, at my picnic table. He chatted away in his slow, southern drawl, complaining about the town of Springdale, the prices at the local grocery which he was not going to pay, and the fact that he needed to drive almost all the way back to St. George to get what he wanted at Walmart instead.

Springdale is a small town, seemingly filled with lovely people and nice places. I was more than happy to support the locals--I want to keep returning to Zion, and if visitors to the park don't spend in the town, and support the local economy, there will be nothing left eventually. I will happily support the area rather than running off to Walmart, 30 miles away, to get cheap crap. His tirade cemented my distaste for him, which I think had really began when he whipped out his switch blade knife and itty-bitty 4-shot .22 pistol to show me his protection the evening before. He made my skin crawl, and I finally dismissed him by telling him I needed to get moving, get my stuff packed up, and get on the road. Before I knew what was happening, he was hugging me and telling me to be careful.

Let me just say this. I don't like being touched by people I don't know. Had he offered his hand, I probably would have shaken it and wished him well also. But honestly, that's the kind of stuff that makes me really feel uncomfortable. No matter how much I wanted to stay another day in Zion, I couldn't do it. Asshole.

This was the ONE exception to my otherwise amazing trip, and the otherwise amazing people I met. In hindsight, I was probably being a little paranoid, and things would have been completely fine. But it made me want to leave, and the beauty of this kind of traveling is that I can always motor on.


One weekend I rode off to Silverton and rode jeep trails with 200 people I didn't know. By the time I was done, a couple of people in this pic became actual friends of mine.


Over the years of hearing other women's stories of being on the road, I have heard similar stories, but with about the same amount of regularity. For every 99 people you meet, you'll probably meet someone you wish you hadn't. I'm okay with those odds. So it makes me really cranky when I tell someone about my plans to travel, and I see that shadow cross his or her (though usually her) face and hear about how dangerous that sounds. I'm kind of over it, in fact. I am apparently smart enough to plan a trip, research places to go and things to avoid, and wrench on my own bike when I need to. But it seems to be that other people think I'm not smart enough to take care of myself in places they have never been.


Sometimes I even take the Tacoma out alone and go 4-wheelin' in the snow!


I suppose it won't stop. People like to warn me away from doing things because they "care" about me. I don't doubt the veracity of statements like that, but I would appreciate a bit more respect than that. I'm not going on a trip I don't research, and I'm not staying somewhere my instincts tell me to avoid. But I'm also not going to NOT do something, simply because someone tells me they don't think its safe. And, I'm not living my life based on other people's paranoia.


This time I took my brother's bike out for a ride. All alone--he didn't even mind.

I will continue to have amazing adventures. I will meet fun new friends, and occasionally someone I don't care for. I will continue to share my stories--and you know me, I'll have many stories to share. This makes me happy, this makes me smile.


Zion National Park and Springdale, UT--aka OMG, I'm never leaving this place!

While being on vacation, and on this trip in particular, my plans have changed over and over and over. I have something set in my mind and when a new day comes around, it all changes. I think I have decided I really like it that way. It seems to turn out for the best, regardless of what I do. This last change came when I decided I was going to head home a day early and directly from my brother's house. We rode out together at a little after 6:00 am, me turning north at the 57 and him turning south.

My brother, Dan, on his Suzuki Boulevard 800. I look positively silly when I ride this bike--probably like I would look if I rode a Clydesdale.

My plan was to beat the heat--at least as much of it as I could. Though I took a lot of breaks on my last day of riding to California, the heat was brutal and I realized I was exhausted from hours on the bike in over 100 degree temps. I wanted to be through Las Vegas by 11:00 at the latest--I didn't want to be there in the afternoon during high heat. The morning ride up the 15 through Barstow and Baker was relatively cool and comfortable. It started to warm up north of there, but remained relatively comfortable. The forecasted high for Vegas was 112 degrees, and I waited to get hit full force. Fortunately, as I was coming into Nevada, cloud cover began. By the time I gassed up in north Las Vegas and got back on the freeway, I was getting rained on lightly. I felt very fortunate!

The world's largest thermometer--sadly, it wasn't working that day. Baker, CA

I mentioned in an earlier post that I had seen next to no adventure bikes. Well, that all changed Monday as I was heading north and east. I saw so many of them that day, I lost count. And one bike, a beautiful black Triumph Tiger 800 played leap frog with me three different times. The last time he passed me, just north of Vegas, I just burst out laughing in my helmet. He rode about 5 mph faster than me, but I stopped for shorter lengths of time for gas and cold drink breaks.

Well, hello Zion!

I got off the 15 just north of St. George, and took highway 9 to Springdale, UT--the southern entrance for Zion National Park. As I got into town, my low gas light came on, and I quickly spied a Chevron station and headed in. The station didn't have pay-at-the-pump, so I went inside to give the cashier, Will (it'll make sense why I know his name in just a moment) my credit card.

"Hi! I'd like to fill my tank on pump #2, please."

Will, looking outside asks excitedly, "Is that you on the scooter!?!"

I, feeling like he made that comment like my friends and I do, and not actually mistaking my bike for a scooter, nevertheless said, "Yup! That's me on the motorcycle."

Will, turning back to me wide-eyed, "WILL YOU MARRY ME???"



He smiled, pulled out his phone and said, "I have to show you pictures of Sir Winston Something-or-other."

He showed me a pic of his BMW motorbike with his dog on the bike--doggles, scarf, and all.

I asked what Sir Winston was--thinking he was referring to the bike--and he told me he is a Sheltie. I still don't know what kind of bike he rides.... Anyway, Will was so excited I was there on my bike, that he insisted on showing me a route that he loves which would take me out of Zion, through Escalante and Capitol Reef, and back up to 70. He said it would definitely add time to the trip, but that it was well worth it.

I said goodbye to Will and cruised into the park. I asked the ranger if there were any campsites left, and he told me he thought there might be a couple. I found the campground, rode in, and rode around looking for a sight. As I was riding around looking, a man flagged me down and asked if I needed a site. He said he just slept in his truck, so if I wanted to, I could put my tent wherever I wanted in the site. As I've told this story to a couple of people, I have been asked if I didn't feel weird about some random guy offering to share a campsite. The truth is that from across the campground, where he first saw me and waved me down, he could not have known I was a woman. In all my gear, with a full face helmet, and no longer having a ponytail streaming down my back, I look nothing like a female.

So, I unloaded the bike and put up the tent, all the while chatting with Bobby. He was a nice guy who lives in St. George, and seems to spend a lot of time in the park. After asking about other trips I had done on the bike, he called me a crazy woman and asked if I was Scottish. I was completely unoffended and laughed. My Scottish friend, Ian McLeod later reminded me that it is true--Scottish women ARE crazy!

My shared campsite, with Bobby's chair and watermelon, and of course, Dog.

I had planned to stay one night. A couple of hours of being in the park and hiking--in my motorcycle boots!--and I decided I needed to stay at least three nights (another change in plans) and go into town and buy some proper footwear for the area. This I didn't mind doing at all. Springdale is a sweet little town, and I had no problem supporting the community.

The next few days would find me hiking, eating local food, hiking, meeting new people, hiking, drinking local beer, finding peace and stillness, and falling in love with the area. I smiled and laughed a lot. I told stories, and listened to other people's stories, saw magnificent scenery, toured a brewery, cooled off from days of 100+ degree days in small swimming holes and in the rivers themselves. It was three wonderful days, with the only downside being an uncomfortable conversation I had the last morning before I left. (This will be discussed in a future post concerning traveling alone as a woman.)

Dinner one night with Wasatch and Squatters beers!

The second day I was in Zion, I left the park at lunch-ish time, having hiked a good six miles that morning already, and looking to sit quietly in the heat of the day and have a beer. As it turns out, right outside the park is the Zion Canyon Brew Pub. I sat at the bar, ordered the Red Altar Ale and perused the menu which offered very few items for a non-meat eater. I totally got over that fact as the server walked out from the back with my beer and I began smelling it from 8 feet away. It smelled wonderful and tasted even better. And, at a low alcohol percentage I could have had it all day long... until I was introduced to the Zion Canyon Brewing Company brewer, Jeremy Baxter, who convinced me I should try a different one the next time. Of course I was glad to try the stout, and to be invited to check out the brewery if I got a chance.

I take a lot of selfies on my trips alone, but a nice guy offered to take this one in The Narrows. It was a hot day and this was the perfect hike to do, once I got far enough out that it wasn't mobbed with people!
This is at a small waterfall in The Narrows. Gorgeous!

I did that the next afternoon! It was hot outside, and I thought it might be nice to head inside where it might be a bit cooler. Nope! Somehow, it was warmer, and the humidity was insane. Still, it was a great space, creating great beer, and there was a pleasant surprise beyond that. As a local, I asked Jeremy what I should not miss while I'm in the area. Though he mentioned a couple of things there in Zion and Springdale, he also mentioned a spot called Goblin Valley, which I would be riding near on my way back into Colorado. He had a computer in the brewery and brought up pics of the area and maps for me to see. It felt so decadent looking at things on that computer screen--I had done everything on my tiny little iPhone for three weeks!

After a bit more hiking that evening, more ZCBC Red Altar, and a restless night of sleep, I woke to find a family of deer in my campsite. The two babies were so cute and skittish, but mama was friendlier than wildlife should be.

I had strong words for her, she stared me down and put me in my place.

I stepped away to take pictures and she examined my map.

Eventually we called a truce, and she wandered a few feet away to munch while I continued to examine my map, and what would be my course for the day to get to Goblin Valley.

Before leaving, I needed to do some maintenance on the bike, and found a nice flat paved parking lot to do it in. Once again I had to tension my chain. This was becoming a daily thing and really starting to annoy me. Now I think on it, I have a good 10-12,000 miles on it, but riding on a failing chain sucks! Still, I got it tensioned and lubed, and loaded to go. I rolled out of the park to the east, heading towards Red Canyon, Bryce, and Escalante, feeling a little deflated. I wasn't interested in leaving. (sad face!) But it was time, so I rode through the park one more time and took a few parting shots of some of the most beautiful scenery I have had the privilege of enjoying.

The varnishing on these formations is beautiful, and I've been informed it makes a nice little tiny ledge for climbing. I can't wait to go back and climb....

Don't worry, Zion, I'll be returning.



06 July 2014

Oh WTF!?!

Two years ago, in Seward, AK, a bear did a number on my side mirrors. It is not often a problem, and never a problem when it is cold. But when the temps get high, and the sun beats down on the bike, the ball joints on the mirrors get warm and soft and can't hold against the strong winds. I'm pretty sure I've written about this before, oh...maybe a year ago. Well, the weather got cool, and I forgot about it again.

Riding through the Utah and California desert quickly reminded me. I searched Santa Maria for new mirrors and found none. Knowing I was going to Orange County, I called Irv Seaver BMW in Orange and asked them if they had any in stock.


They had one.

They set that one aside for me, without me even having to give them payment over the phone, and said they would order another one and it should be there by Saturday. I was a little skeptical of this claim, but the guy I talked to said it would be ordered for stock, so if I couldn't take it or decided I wanted only one--they're $64 a piece--it would be no big deal.

Saturday afternoon, my father, older brother, nephew, and I all got in the car and headed for Orange. The dealership was hoppin' when we pulled up. They were showcasing a beautiful vintage bike which had been restored.

The dealership had lunch and drinks for all who came by, and there were a lot of great bikes in the parking lot.

This bike also had a ball hitch in the back for a trailer. Someone was having grand adventures with this bike!



Um...what? Really? It was a sweet bike.

After looking at the bikes, I wandered into the dealership to the parts counter. Customers were being helped, so I waited patiently. Then I waited some more. Both people helping at the counter looked up a number of times--they knew I was there. I waited some more and my dad came over to join me after looking at gear. About 5 seconds after he came over, one of the people behind the desk looked up, waved at him, and said, "We'll be with you as soon as we can!"

My dad laughed a little, looked at me, and stopped laughing as I'm sure he saw me turn into a ball of fury.

I promptly said, "HE'S not the one you need to talk to!"

It wasn't loud enough for anyone behind the counter to hear. I didn't want them to hold it against me and "forget" they had something put aside. But the customer at the counter directly in front of me heard me, and promptly turned away looking terrified.

When I was helped, they had the one mirror but the second had not come in. In all fairness, I think when the guy I talked to said that would happen, he forgot there would be a holiday. However, I think it should also be said that I have never ordered parts from a BMW dealership and had them come in when I was told they would. So, I just don't expect it.

I bought the one mirror and left, and when we got home, I told the story to my mom and sister-in-law who both would have put up with that crap as well as I did.... My dad jokingly said, "Well, why would they pay attention to you? You're just a little girl." Although he was being completely sarcastic, it just set me off.

"When I, or anyone else, walk into a dealer, they should assume I RIDE THE HELL OUT OF MY MOTORCYCLE!" I mean, that just makes sense. Don't alienate customers and lose sales because you don't think the 5' 3 1/2" girl in heels who just walked in would ride.

After all, if you make that mistake, you only gain the wrath of me. And guess what, I WRITE A BLOG WITH SIGNIFICANT READERSHIP you dip-shits!

Please excuse me while I head on over to Facebook, Yelp, etc.....

04 July 2014

Side Notes

Only sunglasses this go 'round!


At the end of January, I had LASIK surgery. I have worn glasses (thick ones!) or hard contact lenses since I was five years old, and that has affected the way I have done all sorts of activities. Sometimes it was a positive effect--when I performed, I went without and the audience was always nicely blurred. Most times, however, having extremely limited vision which was only mostly corrected, made things more difficult.

Two of the biggest problems came on the Alaska trip. Pulling into a gas station, as I glanced behind me, one of my contacts popped out. Those puppies aren't disposable--the one that popped out cost $120, and I didn't have a back-up. Luckily, it was found.

The second incident happened as we were riding in southern Idaho. The wind was blowing like crazy on the few miles of interstate we rode, blowing smoke, and ash from a wildfire at us along with the usual dust, dirt and grime. All of a sudden, I had a horrific pain in my right eye. I told josh we had to ge off the freeway as soon as possible, but the nearest exit was more than a mile away. My eye hurt and began to water profusely. In a show of solidarity, my left eye began to water, and I had a very hard time keeping them open. By the time I was able to get that contact out, my cornea was scratched and I was searching for drops to soothe my eye.

This trip, with my better than perfect eyesight, has been great! Case-in-point: I hit highway 99 in Bakersfield and searched for the billboards which would tell me at which exit In-n-Out was located. They weren't there! As I passed an exit, thinking, "Crap! Was it that exit!?!", I looked about a mile and a half ahead and saw the arrow sign in the sky where the restaurant was. Way to go Eagle Eyes!

Also, I don't have to save room for all the crap one needs to take care of contacts, or for a pair of back-up glasses. Great on so many levels!

Thank you Dishler Laser Institute!


My F650GS and I--unstoppable since 2011! We love adventure!



I saw loads, LOADS--quite possibly metric butt loads--of other bikes on the roads, the three days I spent riding out to California. Almost every single one was a cruiser, with the occasional exception of a sport bike. It wasn't until I was into California that I saw an adventure bike. I didn't recognize what it was as we sped past each other in opposite directions, so I'm going to say it was either the Honda or the Yamaha Super Tenere.

Where are all those big 800 or 1200GSs and V-Stroms? There have been no KLRs or KTMs. Where are all those adventure touring folk...?


03 July 2014

Utah, Nevada, and California!

My original plan for beginning this trip was to leave the Ute Mountain work site at noon on Friday, the 27th, and get a half days ride in. At the end of the week, however, I was tired and dirty, and really wanted a shower and a real bed to sleep in. So, plans changed and Josh and I simply road back to Vernal, where we would be going our separate ways the next morning instead.


We got a room at the Best Western Dinosaur (not gonna lie, all the soaps, shampoos, etc. were really nice and completely gone after I had a shower that night and one the next morning!) and had dinner at the Vernal Brewing Company. We read a lot of reviews about places to eat in Vernal, and apparently there is a lot of mediocre food there. We went to VBC on a recommendation from the man two rooms down who works in Vernal and pretty much lives at the Best Western. It was within walking distance, and it was a gorgeous night. We sat out on the patio for dinner, overlooking their garden where a lot of their veggies come from. The food was excellent and I had their house made root beer. It was yummy!

Outside the hotel room in Vernal, loaded up and ready to go! My first big solo trip--I'm excited!

The next morning, after breakfast, we loaded the bikes and left--I headed west and Josh headed east. This is my first solo motorbike trip to take me out of the state, and I was excited and nervous. As it turned out, it's just like riding in state, only across state borders, and on roads I had never travelled before. I headed out 40W/191S to Duchesne, where I turned south. The road became a mountain pass, and at the summit, I finally stopped and put on warmer gloves. The road had a 50 mph speed limit, was covered in gravel, and didn't warn about switchbacks. Ok Utah, I see how we're gonna play this!

I made it through, no problem, and picked up Hwy 6W at the other end. A few miles on from there, I made my first stop for gas and a stretch at Soldier Summit. I wound up staying about half an hour, maybe longer, as I ran into a number of people to talk to. The first was a guy with a KTM in the back of his truck. He had been out riding with friends in the mountains, when his bike broke down. He was, consequently, making the beer run while his buddies continued their day of riding without him. That's a sad story.

After buying some snacks, I went back to my bike to find the owners of the Harley I parked next to gearing up and getting ready to go. Debbie and Bruce, from Northern Idaho were really nice people, and I had a great time chatting with them. They were both originally from Monterrey, California, but left about 20 years ago. They were warm, kind people with beautiful smiles, and thousands of miles under them. I really enjoyed their company, and wound up catching up to them on the road again. We rode about 20 miles together before they turned north towards Salt Lake City, and I turned south towards Provo.

Debbie and Bruce--such nice people! They're bike was shiny and well loved!

I had to ride I-15 for a little while, but was able to hop back off and onto little Hwy 6 for the rest of the day. For most of the rest of the day, I felt I had the road to myself. I listened to music and sang along in my helmet. It. Was. Lovely. I ended my day in Delta, UT and looked for a campground. About 18 miles away was the Oak Creek Rec Area, in the northern section of Fishlake National Forest. I set up camp, then drove back into town to check in with the outside world and have some fish and chips at The Delta Freeze.

When I returned to the campground, I wandered around a bit and read all the posted notices. No big deal--bear country and poisonous snakes. Sweet! Don't worry, I made it through uneaten!

As I was taking my picture, a couple on a Harley pulling a trailer rode by, slowed down and took a picture of the sign too. With me in it. Weird.

The next morning, I had a quick breakfast at the gas station--coffee, milk, and granola I made to bring with me--and I headed off for Nevada. Just across the border, I turned off the highway towards Baker and the Great Basin National Park. It is a small national park that doesn't appear to actually charge to enter. Aside from being a lovely place to visit, they have caves which were discovered about 125 years ago. I was really excited to take a cave tour, but the next one I could get a ticket for was two hours away.

This is the original entrance to the Lehman Caves. They have now put a bat friendly fence around it after they blocked off all the entrances and nearly killed all of them. Way to go guys!
I made the most of my time, first by heading out on a hike around the mountain behind the caves' visitor center. I stuck my nose into a cabin which had been restored--not by Historicorps. Only the outside was restored to original....
Many of the plants along the trail were marked with scientific names and descriptions. I had to take the above picture of a plant and it's corresponding marker. The first thing the marker claimed about that plant is that it's one of the most attractive plants in the area. **picture me looking puzzled, scratching my head** Really!?! I hate to be judgy, but I saw a half dead prickly pear 200 yards back that looked better than that thing. I stopped reading the markers after that.
I did not take this picture--it's a postcard image put out by the forest service. I actually took no pictures because there was no way my phone would do it justice. Google Lehman Cave images and check the place out. It's amazing!

After my little hike, I found the cafe and sat down to have the Hiker's Scramble--egg and Provolone cheese on an English muffin. I added some Cholula to the sandwich and had a cup of coffee while chatting with the waitress, Laura. I learned a little about the town of Baker (I won't be moving there anytime soon) and found out the park is open year-round for cave tours. I just found out that costume contracts at The Denver Center have been cut to barely more than six months of work, so I may be looking for a new job. Perhaps I should be a park ranger....

After sitting out on the lawn for a bit, it was time to join the cave tour. The caves were beautiful, with unusual formations I had never seen before. At the end of the tour, the guide demonstrated what it is like to experience an earthquake in limestone/marble caves. It was pretty interesting--I know my eyes bugged out of my head!

After my three hour break, I was ready to hop back on my bike and go. I thought I might ride to Ely and call it a day, but when I got there, I realized there was a lot of daylight left, and I still had some miles in me. After I gassed up, I pulled my bike into a parking spot and went into the store. A guy on a Harley stopped me and chatted away. He was from Lake Havasu and had been on quite the road trip. The original intention of his trip was to visit his sons in the Tahoe area, but then he threw in some more states and lots of miles, because why not!

When I came out of the store, a truck trailering two Yamaha WR250s had pulled up next to my bike. There were two guys in the truck and they rolled down their windows as I came out to chat. They had trailered their bikes out from Oklahoma, were meeting some other people, and would be leaving the truck and trailer in Ely to ride to California. They would be riding all dirt roads, and I have to say it sounded like a lot of fun.

After giving them my card and telling them to get in touch if their ever in the Denver area, I got going again. The last stretch would be 167 miles, and it would turn out to be the hottest and windiest miles I would have ridden to that point. I was tired when I pulled into Tonopah, NV and I had a plan. I would ride up and down the main street, checking out hotel and restaurant areas. Then I would pull over, find shade, and check out what the internet had to say about the different hotels.

I needed a hotel and a shower that night.

Oh yeah! I stayed here.
I passed a Best Western and figured it was probably where I'd end up. But as I rode around the bend in the road, there it was...The Clown Motel! It was absorbing and terrifying all at once. I u-turned and passed it again. Did I have the guts to stay there? I continued with my plan, found some shade and read the reviews. They weren't terrible. In fact, a lot of people claimed they stayed there regularly on vacation with their kids. Which leads me to wonder--who the hell goes to Tonopah on vacation?
I rode back, went into the office which was covered in clown things including what must have been more than 100 clown dolls. I almost bolted at that point. I don't really like dolls, and that was almost too much to handle. I quickly turned my back to them, which in hindsight may have been a bad choice. I'm pretty sure that's how they get you....
Forty bucks for a room, the last one they had, and I was set. As I went back to my bike to start unloading, a young guy followed me out and chatted me up. I got the feeling Tonopah is a little like Alaska. A lot of men out there drilling and building solar forests, and not so many ladies. He was working on the solar project, and lives at the Clown Motel. He was grilling dinner and food for the week, and offered me dinner or beer or anything I needed.
I really think he hadn't seen a girl in a long time....
I'm not sure about the secure parking thing. They had a parking lot, and no one messed with my bike, so that's good.
Looking for a good restaurant in Tonopah seemed like the search for one in Vernal, only without the new brewing company to offer up good food. According to a sign, Tonopah Brewing Company is coming soon, but since it wasn't soon enough, I opted for the Mexican place the guy at the front desk of the motel had recommended. It wasn't awful, and the staff were really nice. After dinner, I went back to the hotel, wedged the large overstuffed chair under the doorknob to guard against psycho killer clowns (I'm not joking--oh, how I wish I were), and passed out.
My fat-bottomed girl looks so skinny without all the luggage!
The next morning, I needed to do a little motorbike maintenance. As I was putting my bike up on its center stand, a guy walking by stopped and watched me. After I got it settled, he yelled over to me, "I thought you were gonna drop that bike!"
Thanks. Thanks a lot. I'm not going to drop my bike, jerk.
Did I mention The Clown Motel is next door to a cemetery? The review that stated that is the one that sold me on the place. Hey, if you're gonna go creepy, go all the way!

I got loaded up and headed out on my way. The last piece of maintenance I couldn't do was check the oil. Because of the sump pump and the way the whole oil system is set up, I have to ride it for about 15 miles, really getting it to operating temperature, before it can be checked. So I rode out of town, and 13 miles down the road was a rest stop. I pulled in, checked it and found it was low.

What happened next, I can't really explain. Somehow, in the midst of adding oil and realizing my Petzl headlamp batteries were dying--I have to use it to see the little oil window--I overfilled my oil reservoir.
For a while, I stood there looking at the bike wondering what would REALLY happen if I rode with too much oil. Then I sucked it up, and started tearing my bike apart. This is where I am extremely thankful I have been doing some of my own wrenching on my bike. It didn't take me long, and I was able to get to the bolt on my reservoir that drains it. Unfortunately there is no in between on that thing though. It is either in, and nothing is coming out, or it is out and the oil sprays out. I managed to get the oil bottle up fairly quickly to catch it, but some missed the bottle.
Don't worry, it didn't spill on the ground and hurt the environment. No, no. My brand new white and silver Klim pants absorbed it all.
That looks nice. Aargh!

Ok, within half an hour--though it felt like so much longer--I was back on the road. I hit the California border and cheered a little. I took a quick picture, then headed on to Benton. One quick look as I drove through Benton, and I thought, "Nope, continuing to Bishop!" It had to be better--Bishop was a bigger dot on the map!

I stopped at Jack's Restaurant and Bakery and it was great! I just ordered eggs, hash browns and toast, but it was all cooked perfectly and the sourdough toast was California sourdough--IT WAS SO GOOD! I looked at maps while I was waiting and eating, and thought I would probably make it to just west of Onyx that evening, and camp in the Sequoia National Forest.
When I walked out of the restaurant back to my bike, there was a man with his truck door open and he was petting his dog. He was a beautiful, mostly black German shepherd, and I commented on how beautiful he was. The man asked if I wanted to pet him and I promptly said, "Yes I do!" As I was petting him, I noticed the tag on his collar said Placer County Sherriff K-9, and I asked if he was a former K-9 officer. I was told he still is, and the man, Shawn Rosner was a sherriff's deputy. Jet was his K-9 officer companion, and they were actually on vacation. Jet was sweet, and soft, and I loved him! I also have no doubt that he could rip a bad guy to shreds in no time flat.
I rolled out of Bishop and headed on down 395 in the crazy heat. My thermometer read over 100 when I rolled in, and it hadn't gotten any cooler. I finally stopped at the CoCo Junction rest area, and as I consulted my map, I realized I had no idea how far it would be to the next gas. So I went across the road and filled up, went inside, and asked the cashier if he knew where the next gas stops were. He had a list of cities with mileage, and I saw that Bakersfield was only 135 miles away. Well, I could make it that far no problem, so off I went.
And the temperature just went up.
And up.
It was like riding through an oven.
I hit highway 14 which took me to highway 178 within a few miles. That pointed me west and took me into a mountain pass almost immediately. There was a small break in the temps, and the road was great! I rode through a Joshua Tree forest--if one can call it that--and truly enjoyed the winding passes I went through. Eventually, I came back down in elevation and the road straightened out a bit. The temps went back up, and I stopped in Onyx for a break.
I pulled into the post office to buy some stamps, and as I was walking in, a big guy in a tie-dyed t-shirt walked out and exclaimed, "A beautiful woman on a motorcycle! You can't beat that!" I laughed, told him thank you, but that in that heat I was feeling hot and sweaty, not so much beautiful. He laughed and said it was indeed hot.
I think he may have taken a second look and agreed with me also....
The road really straightened out at this point and then became two lanes in each direction, divided. Am I really on the same highway? I guess so. Right around Lake Isabella, it once again became a twisty two lane highway. The lake was kind of pathetic. It was very low and there were almost no vacationers. As the road straightened out, I was dumped into Bakersfield and I headed immediately for In-n-Out. Hey, I have my priorities!
Waiting for my Animal-Style burger. Anticipation.....

I stopped eating meat a while ago, but I had to have a burger, animal style, and fries. So. Good!

At this point, I had two choices. Stay the night in Bakersfield--uh, no thank you--or continue on to Santa Maria. It would be another 2 1/2 hours of riding, and it would put my mileage for that day at 470. I figured that at some point in those last 130 or so miles, things would start to cool down, so I went for it. By the time I was about 10 miles from the 101 junction, I stopped and put on my warmer gloves. It felt good to be cooler. Twenty-five minutes later, I pulled to a stop in front of my parents house--a day earlier than I had planned--and they came out to greet me.

My dad said, "I've been following on all the maps and Facebook. I knew you'd get here today!"


01 July 2014

Historicorps and the Ute Mountain Lookout Tower

Saturday, June 21, I changed the tube out on my front tire, checked all other vitals, and loaded my bike up for three weeks of motorbike riding, camping, visiting family, and historic restoration. The first stop would be Fraser, CO to spend the night with my friends Pete and Belinda. After a wonderful evening with friends and a great breakfast, we headed out for Utah.
Josh and I would be spending the first week of this adventure about 50 miles north of Vernal, UT (known as the "Best shopping area between Salt Lake City and Denver on highway 40!") in the Ashley National Forest, working with a not-for-profit historic restoration group based in Denver called Historicorps. Two years ago I worked with this group restoring the Baehrden Lodge in Jefferson County, and on the Tobasco Cabin outside Silverton, CO. I had a great time, learned a lot, and worked with some really wonderful and talented individuals. When my friend Ian Mcleod asked if we could join him on this project, we jumped at the chance, and I figured since I was already 300 miles further west, I would keep going to California.
I just managed to shove the most ridiculous sandals into my top case. Hey, I'm motorbiking and camping--I'm not a heathen....
Bikes all loaded up and ready to go. I carried nearly everything since I would be continuing on after the first week.
Sunday, June 24, we left Fraser around 11:45 and stopped in Vernal at about 5:00. We decided to get dinner there at a Mexican restaurant, and Ian joined us half an hour later. After we finished eating, we headed north through Flaming Gorgeto the Ashley National Forest Summit Springs Guard Station where base camp would be. We met the three other volunteers for the week--Randy, Nancy, and Ashley--and one crew chief--Stephanie.
As everyone wandered their own separate ways, Ian looked at me and sang, "B-double E-double R-U-N, Beer run!" We took off running towards the guard station full tilt, Ian in flip flops, and me in my motorcycle pants and boots. I'm pretty sure we ran like a mile. Maybe a mile and a half! I don't know! But we were winded, panting and laughing as we grabbed beers from the fridge. Now that I think about it, it felt like a full 5k.... We set up camp, drank beers, and spent the evening just hanging out.
Our camping spot at the Summit Springs Guard Station. I heard elk bugling one morning, but saw no moose....
Monday--Holy Crap it was cold when we woke up! I had slept in my heavy-weight base layers and wool socks in my -5 degree sleeping bag. I woke up comfortable, but as soon as I unzipped my bag I was freezing. That day I would wear my base layer under my jeans. We went into the guard station where breakfasts and dinners would be all week, and met the other two staff members--Chris and John. After breakfast, we headed up to the tower for our first day of work. Chris assigned tasks to everyone--Randy would help him on the staircase, Ian and Josh would work together fitting steel c-channel to existing beams, the other women painting, and at the end he looked at me and told me I'd be up on the roof with John, working on the lightning equipment.


On the roof.

Of the cab built 50' above the ground.

Working on lightning equipment.


I think it was a test....


A quick check of the clear blue sky told me this would be as good a time as ever. I hopped into the lift and up we went. The view was phenomenal, and I was pissed I didn't have a camera. Once we finished, the rest of the day would find me on the ground, trying to find things to fill my time, being assured the next day would have lots of projects, lots of work.


Back at base camp that night, we had dinner together and spent some time getting to know one another over beer, wine, and later into the evening, Colorado-made whiskey.

Tuesday, I was informed I would be on steel with "your men"--please keep that in mind, Josh and Ian, you are both My Men--and I drilled holes in steel and tore down and put back up scaffolding.
Surveying my work with the scaffold tower. Little did I know that coil of rope on the footer next to me would become my constant companion the next few days.

Wednesday was the big day. At the top of the tower below the cab, the original plans called for three 8x8" beams, but only two were ever used. In order to bring the tower up to code for public use, the engineers required that the third, which was to go in the middle, be put in. This meant putting an enormous, heavy beam--also to be reinforced with steel--into a space which had sagged over the almost 80 years the tower had been in existence. Oh yeah, and don't forget, this would be at 50' above the ground.

In a brilliant feat of planning, engineering, and with a bit of luck, we managed to squeeze an "8 inch post into a 6 inch hole." Ian manned the fork lift superbly, lifting the beam into position. Chris was on the man-lift--or as I like to call it, the lady-lift--guiding through the first holes, and in the end, using sheer brute strength to help muscle that thing where it needed to go. Next it would come to me and Josh on the first set of scaffolding. Josh and I got it through the next set of obstacles we needed to avoid, and John got it last, harnessed off of the second scaffold. Next was the enormous piece of steel c-channel to reinforce the beam. I feel certain that nothing short of a direct hit by a meteor will ever be able to take out that tower.

I wish I had video or pictures of that afternoon--it was remarkable! I was so proud of us as a team. At the end of the day, our project leader, Chris, very kindly recognized the work we had done, and Josh, Ian, and I in particular.

That night, we ate dinner outside, and most of us went to sleep before the sun had gone down.

Our crew chief, John, having a good time. That's a big part of the way Historicorps works.
Thursday morning, the men were up early. By the time I got out of the tent, Josh, Ian, Chris, and John were all sitting in the warm morning sun, quietly reading their books. I grabbed my iPad and went to join them. After some discussion as to whether or not I should be allowed to join them with my electronic media, I settled down and read as well. It was a nice start to a day which would prove to be physically exhausting.
We tore down and rebuilt both scaffolding towers that day. It started with a crew of about 6 people, but as we began to rebuild the first tower, we were down to three. I would wind up hauling every piece of guard rail, decking and cross bracing up as it was built, using a rope on a pulley with a carabiner to clip to things.
After that was done, I found myself on the end of another rope, this time hauling up the uncut stringer for the upper staircase. It was heavy, and my end had to go up 50'. By the end of the day, I was back to cutting holes in steel. Every part of my upper body was sore, and I was exhausted.
Everyone was tired. Josh and Ian chose a spot on the grass to lie down, drink their beers, and doze. Chris, Randy, Nancy, and I sat around the picnic table in camp chairs, feet up on the benches, with our beers and wine. The evening was nice. Quiet. Relaxing.
By the time dinner was ready, I may have fallen asleep with my face in my plate if John hadn't made the most delicious, handmade, veggie and grain burgers. We ate outside, but eventually went inside to sit around, chat, and have dessert. I would fall asleep quickly that night, but be awakened in the middle of the night...
It's hard to tell, but Ian is playing monkey-boy on the cross braces up under the cab.
...to rain. Then, there would be more rain. We should have pulled the tent down and packed everything before leaving for the work site that morning, but everything was wet. It had stopped raining by the time we were heading up, and we hoped the tents would be dry when we got back around lunchtime. Fridays are short days with Historicorps, and everyone would have lunch back at base camp, then head for home.
For the most part, things were dry when we got back. It started raining as I had everything on the bike and was checking my tire pressure. All of the gear I had on was wet as I hugged people and said goodbye, but it seemed to be okay. As with every Historicorps project, I met some great people, and made some new friends whose work I really respect. I have a feeling I'll be working with one or two of them again sometime.