26 February 2014

Seamus Raphael O'Bryan

I suppose somewhere in the back of my mind I've known that this day would come. The motorcycling world, my motorcycling world to be more specific, would lose someone precious and dear. Three weeks ago, on the morning of January 31, we lost our brother, Seamus O'Bryan.

I had the good fortune to meet Seamus for the first time a little more than 14 years ago, at The University of Arizona. Two years later, we both left, me having earned a degree, and Seamus moving on to other things. He would later return and finish out his degree in theater education, but prove that he was destined for a much wider variety of life than theater alone could provide.

Seamus, a native of Phoenix, wanted to learn to sail tall ships, and found himself on board the Alvei, a ship that circled the South Pacific, often ferrying people and supplies for an organization called Project MARC (medical assistance to remote communities). He eventually joined the group and helped bring clean water, doctors, and women's clinics to remote areas desperately in need of these things. Not long after the devastating earthquake in Haiti, Seamus found himself there in the middle of it all, giving his time and skills to help those who needed it most.

Seamus was involved with Project MARC for a number of years, during which time he would find himself back in the states working in theater to finance his volunteering. In 2008, as did most of the free world, Seamus and I reconnected on Facebook. We played a little catch up, and this past April, we wound up in the same city at the same time, working for the same company.

As this summer's work ramped up, we figured out how to do many of the things we enjoyed together, on the one day off a week when our schedules would overlap. We climbed, went to the shooting range, went to the archery range, sailed, and rode our motorcycles everywhere. His motorcycle was his only form of transportation, which works a lot better in San Diego than in most other places in the country, and we took them everywhere--we rode down into Baja one Mexico Monday, making it the third country I had been to on my bike.

We made quite the pair when we would pull up somewhere, Seamus on his shiny Honda Shadow 750, and me on my beat up BMW F650GS. I laughed often at how big my bike looked next to his, but our bikes suited us well. We traded a couple of times over the summer, but in the end, we were always happy to get back to our own.

 
In December, a couple of months after I returned to Denver, I got a call from Seamus. We chatted for a while before he had to go in for his work call. He excitedly told me about an upcoming trip he would be heading out on with his buddy Peter from Australia. Peter was coming out to the states and the plan was that Seamus would line up a bike and gear, and the two of them would ride part of the pacific coast and into Arizona right after the Christmas show at The Old Globe closed.
This would be his first real road trip on the bike, and I regularly got updates and pictures of the bike and gear, and reports on the need to get started on the trip so he would stop spending money on stuff for the trip. That made me laugh, as I know that feeling all too well.
 
Peter Newbigin and Seamus O'Bryan on their January 2014 road trip.
It looks like a quick fix was needed and successfully implemented.

The guys had a great trip, and I was looking forward to hearing the details. Seamus went right into tech rehearsals after returning, and I was in the middle of tech also. I sent him a quick note the day after my kickstand fell off, and my bike took a dirt nap at the gas station. I could hear the laughter in his response message, and we promised to catch back up after we opened our shows.

Early in the morning on January 31, the day after opening his show, a man in a Cadillac turned left in front of Seamus as he was driving down University Ave in San Diego. In an instant, this amazing human being was taken from us, leaving an emptiness that, right now, seems impossible to fill.

 

---------------------------

 

As I read over what I have written above, it seems a horribly hollow description of my friend. It would be impossible to tell his story in anything less than something the size of a Michener novel.

The last few days, we have had funeral and memorial services. As with any event of this type, we all had our times of being terribly sad. But, when we could see through the sadness for a few moments, we have also been able to tell our stories and laugh like crazy. Who else could I possibly have been sitting with in a sailor bar, and turned in surprise when someone walking by caught her peg leg on the ratty carpet, fallen, and not spilled a drop of her whiskey?

Yup, that happened. That and so much more. At his memorial in Phoenix, his mother spoke with more grace than I could have imagined was possible to possess at a moment like that. She reminded us that in the end, Seamus's life was not really cut short. He lived more in his 32 years than most will live in 80.

At the beautiful memorial service in San Diego, hosted by The Old Globe Theater and The LaJolla Playhouse, I was asked to speak and tell an uplifting story or two. It was hard to choose! I told a couple of sailing stories as sailing had brought many of the 300+ people there that night together. At the end, I told part of this last story.

Before I left San Diego in September to return home to Denver, Seamus helped me run some errands to load my bike and get new tires for my truck. As we sat stopped at an intersection, I silently ran through everything I still needed to accomplish feeling more and more stressed as I added it all up. Suddenly I feel the truck shaking violently and I look over to see Seamus dancing as wildly with his upper body as he could.

"Intersection Dance!"

I didn't play along. He kept at it until I smiled, then finally started laughing and doing my own little dance. A week after Seamus's accident, I walked into my garage and looked at my bikes. I hadn't realized until that moment that I had been avoiding doing so. Last weekend, I got on my big bike, went out and put 180 miles on in the sunshine of the day. As I rode down 85 through Brighton, I had to stop at a traffic signal. It was a long light. A fun song came on, and I threw my arms into the air and did an intersection dance, much to the amusement (I like to think) of those around me. Thank you for that, Seamus.

 

For Seamus Raphael O'Bryan

5 June 1981 - 31 January 2014

"...and I'll see you someday in Fiddler's Green."

 

24 January 2014

Taz--aka The Tasmanian Dirt Devil

The past week has been beautiful in Denver and I have been able to return to daily commuting on the bike, and even a short ride, south and east, this past Saturday. Mostly I've been riding my big bike, but Monday I had to switch to the new little dirt bike.

Saturday's ride saw a stretch of easy dirt with some mud--my boots and pants had mud splattered on them when we got home--but everything else was pavement.

 

It was cold! This is the biggest reason I haven't been taking the little bike out. It is below freezing every morning when I leave for work, and I really like using my grip heaters and electric gloves. You can see the still built-up piles of snow in the pic above. It has been sunny, but heading east of town onto the high plains, one gains altitude and the temps drop. Brrrrrr.....

Sunday, the day after the 150 mile ride, I had to go to first dress rehearsal for Hamlet. I left at four, and on the way home, I stopped to fill up my gas tank. I pulled into the gas station, killed the engine, dropped the kickstand, and got off my bike. As I walked around the back of the bike, pulling my gloves off, I noticed movement in my peripheral vision, and turned in time to watch 450lbs of BMW slam to the ground. For a moment, I just stood there, staring unbelievably at my motorcycle lying on its side.

Wtf?

Oh god, how many people just saw that?

This is really fucking embarrassing.

And there lay my bike, mocking me.

Then, as I looked closer, I saw a hunk of black metal lying about 2 feet away from my bike. It was my kickstand.

Fuck.

So I take my helmet off, set it next to the pump, and move around to pick my bike up, thinking "Ok, here's the test as to whether or not you are capable of picking the damn thing up on your own."

As I put my back to my bike, squat down grabbing handlebars and back bar, and start to lift, one of the women at the station yelled, "Can you do that by yourself!?!" I told her I didn't know, I had never had to before. I got it about halfway up, stopped to take a breath, and by that time she had gotten to me and helped me muscle it the rest of the way up. Another woman had arrived at about the same time. I put the bike on it's center stand, and thanked them both. (In my head, I thanked them and told the two men who just watched the whole thing that they were ASSHOLES!)

I wasn't sure what to do at this point. Usually when something goes wrong with my bike, I look at it, poke at it, and pretend I know what I'm looking at and poking at. Then I leave it alone overnight and hope the problem goes away. If it doesn't, I take it to some who CAN look at it and poke at it, and actually know what they're doing. I know my limitations.

But I didn't have that luxury here. I got down on the ground, looked at the whole assembly where my kickstand belonged, and realized there was NO bolt and no springs. I looked all around the bike. Nothing. I don't know where they went, but they were gone. So then I wonder if the bike will think the kickstand is down if I start it and try to put it in gear. That would suck--I wouldn't even be able to ride it home. So I tested that--started it and put it into gear. It stayed running so I thought that was a small victory.

While it was upright, and at the gas station, I put gas in the tank, hoping that in the process, one of the three people I had tried calling would call me back. Oh...no such luck. We can't be bothered when we're cheering for the Broncos....

So now I have gas and I know I can get the bike home. My next big problem is that although I can get my bike down off the center stand, I'm not sure I can hold it upright and balanced, and throw a leg over without dropping it again. This may seem ridiculous to other (read: male) riders, but please keep in mind that I barely get my toes down on my bike (its not easy being a small woman in a large man's motorcycling world!), and there was a good possibility I was going to hurt myself. In the meantime, a guy in a truck had pulled up next to me and he was gassing up. He kept staring--it's a thing, guys do it when they see girls on bikes--and I thought I could ask him to help me. My pride just wouldn't let me. Nope. Be a big girl, handle your own bike, and go home.

And in the end I did. I made it home safely, got the stupid thing into the garage and up on it's center stand, and have been riding Taz to work everyday. I've ordered the parts to fix Thumper, and they should be here soon--Just in time for the temps to drop and more snow to come. Sigh....

Anyway, I was not laughing at the time, but I can laugh about it now. My shoulders were sore from picking up 450 lbs. of bike, but I am secure in the knowledge that I can do it if I need to. And...I have a back-up bike! That's the best!

 

19 November 2013

Colorado Front Range Tag-O-Rama

When I first joined the ADV Rider forum, a little more than a year ago, there was so much to look at and so much to read about. Eventually, I checked out all the local threads in the Rockies regional posts, and I happened upon one called Colorado Front Range Tag-O-Rama. It is a photo tag game played within certain boundaries on our front range. It's an area, approximately, from Ft. Collins to Pueblo, before the snow starts to the west, and somewhere out on the plains to the east.

I thought it sounded like a fun game to play. The first person picks a location, hopefully with some historical or cultural interest and take a picture of their bike in front of it. Then the game is on. Everyone tries to figure out where the location is, get there and "grab" the "tag" by replicating the picture with his or her own bike. The first person to do so and get it posted wins that tag and gets to choose the next location.

Although I read about it a year and a half ago, I didn't start playing until about a month ago. But now I'm hooked, and I love the hunt, even if I can't get to the tag in time.

 

The aerial turbine in Rollinsville was the first tag I grabbed. However, I had to ride to Nederland in order to post it, as I had no cell service in Rollinsville, all the while hoping no one else had sniped it.

This was my first tag I posted--his name is Sun Spot and I felt it represented me fairly well as it was a piece of public art, and a dog! He resides in the parking lot at the new Denver Animal Shelter and can be glimpsed from I-25 if you know where to look.

The second tag I grabbed was after daylight savings time ended, so I had to get it in the dark. This is the Wings Over The Rockies museum in the Lowry district of Denver, a former Air Force Base.

My next post was downtown, right down the street from the theaters. The artist is David Choe, and the building behind where I am standing to take this picture also has some of his work on it.

 

I have Googled and located several other tags, but have not been able to make it in time. However, last Thursday night, one of the players tagged The Walnut Room, a local eatery, and it was determined it should wind up being a group grab for lunch. So, not long after I started playing, I got to meet six other players at lunch. Now, being something of an introvert, this is not always easy for me. I don't do well in large crowds of people, and really have a hard time walking into groups of people I don't know at all. My worst fears were realized as I walked up to the animated table full of (male) motorbike riders, introduced myself, and sat down to complete silence. Oh god! It was awful and awkward. Nothing like a girl to bring an entire table full of men to abrupt and complete silence. THIS is why I am terrified to try new things!

So, I asked who everyone was, they introduced themselves, and silence returned. Eventually, smaller conversations started again, and it became more comfortable. One of the other players asked what I do for the Denver Center and as it turns out, he is the Technical Director for the Lone Tree Arts Center, and had been trying to find out who Powered Productions Llc. was, after seeing our company's name listed in the Central City Opera program. We got a good laugh out of what a small world it is, and he gave me his card, telling me he needed some scenery built.

In the end I met some nice people, did a little networking, and it was a nice lunch. I left feeling much happier and calmer than when I showed up. And THIS is why I sometimes bite the bullet and try new things!

As to why I was "calmer" than when I showed up, well, that is a whole other story that had nothing to do with me feeling anxious about going to meet a new group of people. When I left the shop and walked out to my motorcycle, I found that someone had stolen my tank bag, and Josh's as well. We spent about half an hour watching video footage of the loading dock, and two assholes working together ripped us off. There was nothing of high value in either bag, and nothing of any value to the two douche bags who stole them. However, as I have added up the costs of what was in there, along with the costs of the bags, it's about a $600 loss.

My sense of good feelings towards human beings as a whole took a nose dive that day also. That seemed to be a greater loss. But then, something good happened. I sent a message to the Tag-O-Rama group explaining what had happened, not sure that I would make it to lunch in time, or at all, and throughout the course of the day, I got messages of support from people in the group. I even got a message from one guy, who was not at lunch, saying that he had plenty of tank bags if I needed to borrow one until I replaced mine. I don't know this guy, haven't met him, but that offer made me smile and helped restore some of my faith in humanity.

I found out another parking area got hit later that night, and now have nothing on my bike that can't be completely locked down. Tank bags, with their four dog clips, will now be only for long rides--no longer a commuter bag. Nothing in that bag couldn't be replaced, so that's a plus. Going to head up to the Wolfman store and get a new bag soon--yeah, a shopping trip!

My two favorites pictures with that bag. It went to Alaska with me and rode the trails in the San Juan mountains too. So sad....

 

Where have I been?

It seems as though it has been forever since I posted something new. I have been riding, just not a whole lot. There is, of course, the daily commute. It's somewhat boring, and full of distracted drivers, but it keeps me on my toes and constantly reinforces my defensive driving/riding skills.

The day after the first snow of the season, I took a ride into the foothills. I took roads that have all been mentioned here numerous times, but was caught off guard by the cold factor. Having just returned from summer weather in San Diego, I was unready for the abrupt change to winter temps, particularly going up into the mountains. I stopped in the post office parking lot in Blackhawk to take off my pants and zip the quilted liner in. Boy was I glad I had leggings on that day (though after the deluge of Facebook articles claiming leggings are not pants, I must apologize to drivers on 119 for having to witness my ass in leggings as I got everything together--sorry!), but I was sorely missing my heavy jacket and electric gloves.

 

The aspens were turning, and Golden Gate Canyon was a lovely ride that day.

 

Roads were still closed for repairs after the massive flooding that happened in September, so I put few miles on that day. They were lovely miles, however, riding in the bright sunshine, snow lining the roads, and aspens just turning to gold.

Later in October, we received an invite to a dual sport event hosted by Rampart Rider and Fay Myers Motorsports. It was small, limited to the first 30 or so people, but it was a fun day of riding. Dan and Mary Predovich hosted the group at their home outside of Sedalia, welcoming us with coffee on their deck. Fay Myers had 4 or 5 people there, setting up courses, handing out SWAG, and talking about riding, checklists, and general motorcycle maintenance.

As people were arriving, a new BMW 700GS pulled up with panniers that looked strangely familiar. When the rider got off and removed her helmet, I recognized Sherrie, a woman I met and rode with in Silverton with the RMAR. It was great to see her and catch up, but I was horrified to find out the reason I recognized the boxes and not the bike was that a jeep had hit her head-on on a trail going about 30 mph. Her bike was totaled, but she miraculously came out of it only with sprained wrists. Amazing woman that she is, she went out and ordered herself another bike and kept going.

We had a great day of riding the off-road course, lunch, and a skills competition following lunch. Dave from Fay Myers judged the skills competition which included three challenges: weaving through cones as slowly as possible, picking up tennis balls off the top of cones, and tossing hula hoops over cones. These types of challenges are often done at events, but we were doing them off-road and uphill. No smooth asphalt for us! There were originally two competitive groups: smaller engine dirt/trail bikes, and larger cc dual sports. In the end, the Fay Myers group found an extra gift card (the competition prizes) and added a third breakdown--the women's group. I won the women's group! But, in all fairness, there were only three of us, and only Sherrie and I actually competed in all the events. I had a blast though!

 

Me with my gift card prize from Fay Myers! It was a gorgeous, warm sunny day. If we weren't on the bikes, we stripped down to as little clothing as we could. Fay Myers provided burgers and potato salad for lunch, and we all had a great day!

Mary Predovich, one of our hosts, on her little Honda. Many thanks to Dan and Mary for hosting!

Part of the GS contingent. It also included my 650, Sherrie's 700, and another guy's 1200. The bikes ran the gamut, from little 100s to giant 1200s--I watched a guy catch air off a berm on a Triumph Tiger 800. I was impressed by everyone's riding abilities!

 

 

The trick with the tennis balls was not dropping them after you grabbed them. It subtracted from your score each time.

 

We were supposed to be getting together again, the same group minus the Fay Myers guys, and riding in the meadow again last weekend. Sadly, the (In)Accurate Pinpoint Weather people forecasted bad weather that day, so it was cancelled. FYI--the weather was gorgeous that day. I raked leaves.

 

07 October 2013

Yamaha XT225--the newest family member!

Who has two thumbs and a new dirt bike?

Yup! This girl!

I have been searching for a small dirt/trail bike for more than a year--since I went off-road for a weekend with the Rocky Mountain Adventure Riders (RMAR) last July. I had a grand time, but learned that weekend that if I wanted to be self-sufficient, I needed a smaller bike. Smaller in engine size and smaller in over all physical size. And although the GS is made to be a dual sport bike, having a bike specifically made with this type of riding in mind would help me greatly in learning the basics, and improving the skills I found I already had.

The "Shortypants--we are short women and this is what we ride" thread on ADVRider was immensely helpful. It is more than 50 pages long, and packed with info on bikes, modifications, likes, dislikes and ridiculously inspiring photos. These women can ride!!!

After reading through the whole thread, I made a short list of bikes on a post-it that has travelled with me for about 8 months in my work bag. These were the top favorites, for different reasons and for different riders, that I thought could work well for me. This summer I started sitting on bikes in dealerships and seeing how they felt. I was not, however, going to buy a brand new bike.

There are two reasons for this.

1) (and this is pretty big) $$$. I knew I would be looking at selling the Red Devil and using that money towards a new bike. It is 33 years old, and though its a great bike, it is not in original condition. It would not cover the cost of a new bike, so I needed to keep my budget fairly low.

2) I will drop this bike. A lot. I'm pretty sure that if I get myself a brand new bike, I will ride it so gingerly and carefully so as to not scratch or dent it, that it will defeat the purpose of getting a bike to learn on. I think I would probably cry the first time I dented a brand new bike--no lie.

So, Craigslist it is. After months of looking, both here in Colorado and in California where I spent six months of my summer, I bought a bike from a guy just outside of Sedalia, CO. I met Steve in front of Bud's Bar (he was on his 650 V-Strom) and followed him to his home. He pulled the bike out of the garage and the first thing I thought was, "Crap, its bigger than I thought it would be!"

I looked it over, got my gear on and he started it up. That's when I looked at him and said, "Oh, the one thing I didn't do before you started it was throw a leg over to make sure I could touch the ground." We both laughed, but I wasn't laughing on the inside....

I got my leg over and couldn't put even my toe on the ground on the other side. But the bike was light and the suspension squishy and I was feeling brave. I pushed up and the bike got upright and settled just enough for me to put toes on the ground! Success! I got the kickstand up and took off. I was glad that by the time I returned, he had gone back inside: I knew I had the goofiest grin on my face! What a fun bike!

 

We got all of the paperwork out of the way, Steve helped me load it up, and I drove off with that same goofy grin on my face, windows down, music loud, wind blowing my hair, having a great time! It was now about 1:30 in the afternoon, and I realized I hadn't eaten all day--I was starving! On my way back through Sedalia, I decided to stop and eat at The Sedalia Grill. I had ridden past it many times, seen loads of motorbikes there, but never stopped. I went in, ordered wings and a Coors Light, and sent messages to everyone I knew who would care about the new bike.

In the parking lot at The Sedalia Grill. Motorbikes of every variety were parked there, and by the time I left, several trucks loaded with dirt bikes were parked next to mine. I felt like I was part of the club!

I get to go home early from work today--we are super slow--so I'll be heading to the DMV to title and register it. The picture below is the current line-up, but room in the garage is super tight. I'm going to sell the little Honda this month if I can, but I will miss her!

I know she doesn't look like at XT--they are usually white with blue/grey graphics. The first owner of the bike put an aftermarket Clarke tank on her (4.2 gallons) and painted the bike to match. Steve admitted to me that he had put a couple scratches on her, and quite honestly I'm thankful for them. I won't be worried about keeping her in pristine condition--that's not what she's for anyway!

L-R: Nalla, Louise, The Red Devil, ?, and Thumper the Ice Queen. Gonna need a name for the new one.... (Look at that big 21" front wheel on the Yamaha!)

 

27 September 2013

From Summer to Winter: Going Back To Colorado

It didn't seem like it would be a particularly difficult thing to do, especially considering the number of times I have done it in the past. Going back to Colorado at the end of my San Diego summer gig would involve me packing my place, loading my truck, and driving home. The packing would happen on my last Monday off before leaving, and I would live out of my suitcases for a week, slowly consuming what food I had left in the kitchen. Loading the truck would happen the night before leaving, with a little apartment cleaning that night. The last thing would be getting on the road and driving for two days. That's it. That's all it typically takes to get home. But this year, things were considerably more difficult.

Monday before I left, I did indeed pack most of my things, but only after spending most of the day dealing with truck problems, and eventually leaving my truck at the mechanic's shop to be worked on for the next two days. On Wednesday at lunch, as I rode my motorcycle to the shop to get the truck, oil was leaking from somewhere up near the reservoir tank. I bought oil at the truck place, refilled my tank--thanks to the curious and flirty mechanic who fetched me channel locks so I could remove the oil tank cap (sometimes it pays to be a GIRL on a motorbike)--and got the bike back to work. After being told not to ride it by Dave at DCMW in Santee, I left the bike at work until I could come back at 9:30 that night with muscle to help load it up.

In the Botanical Lot of Balboa Park. Wednesday at lunch was the last ride I would be able to take on her in San Diego. A little anti-climactic if you ask me.

 

The next morning, I dropped the bike off at DCMW and slid the keys into the mail slot. Later that afternoon I got a call from Dave and he said there had been a mis-seated gasket, and they also tightened a hose clamp. They had done some work--a lot of work--on my bike in June, and charged me nothing for taking care of this. He told me it would be ready anytime for pick-up, and asked if there was anything else I needed. He had mentioned my nearly-bald tire, and I thought "why not?" It was already there, why not have him put a new tire on. So I told him that if he could get a Hidenau Scout and get it on before the next day at lunch, he could go ahead and do that.

That night I had dinner with a girl friend of mine, and when I got back into my truck to drive home, I realized something was very wrong. So...back to the mechanic IT went. I called DCMW and told Dave he actually had until the next afternoon to get the tire on, as I would be once again dealing with my truck that day at lunch.

Saturday was a crazy hectic day! I worked half of the day. When I left work with all my tools and books tossed into the truck, I headed to Santee to get the bike. We loaded it onto the truck and tied it down. I thought back, once again, to loading the bikes onto the ferry in Sitka, and one of the crew members offering me assistance with the ratchet straps, completely certain that I would have no idea what I was doing. (Sometimes its difficult having to prove oneself when one is a GIRL on a motorbike)

Look at that new tire! Holy crap--my knobbies have knobbies!
 
Once the bike was loaded, I headed to the tire store. I had been there Monday morning and had my tires rotated, but the guys who did my alignment--and the other $1500.00 worth of work--informed me that the tread was starting to separate on one of the tires they looked at. Knowing I was making the trip back to Denver, with a load in the back, they were concerned that I have that tire replaced immediately. I told them I had just had them rotated two hours before, and asked if they didn't think that was a little strange. You know--the TIRE place not telling me about that.
So now, on Saturday afternoon, the day before I leave, I pull into the tire store, bike tied down in the bed, and get out my pissy attitude to deal with them. I did think of going to a better store, but that would have deprived me of two things: 1--I couldn't point out their mistake and make them feel shame for putting a poor little woman in danger during a long road trip, and 2--I wouldn't have gotten a free tire out of their dangerous mistake.
Oh yeah, that tire was free!
 
So I load up Saturday night, and drive out of town Sunday morning, taking time to pick up a new set of ratchet straps first. Two were slightly fraying, and I knew what they would look like after several hours at 80 mph on the freeway. I replaced the bad ones and set out. The drive was the same old drive it always was. I had to use the AC through the California and Nevada deserts, and the heater through Utah and the Rockies. In fact, there were several feet of fresh snow over Vail Pass as I drove through, and then again on each side of the Eisenhower/Johnson tunnels.
If you look closely you'll see that's not a bicycle, its a stadium bike. All you need for that kind of bike is a little rack on the back of your Nissan!

Getting coffee, donuts, and beef jerky in the morning before starting off on my second day of driving. Cedar City was really cold that morning, and it was a harsh contrast to the lovely, warm, still summer days of California I had left behind the morning before.

Once I got home to Denver, the weather was sunny and mild during the day, though quite chilly at night and in the mornings. Nalla was ridiculously happy to have me home, following me everywhere and keeping a close eye on me. The ride to work in the morning would have me putting one liner into my jacket Wednesday, and adding the quilted liner on Friday. That was this morning, and halfway to work I realized I should have worn, or at least taken, my riding pants. It will be raining when I leave work to ride home this evening, and it will be cold. Epic fail on my part! I just can't believe that summer came to such a screeching halt. I have a feeling I will soon be pulling out my heavy hi-viz jacket for those cold early morning rides.

Miss Nalla, now at 123 lbs., is supervising. This is how we do it in Denver!

16 September 2013

Camping Palomar Mountain

A couple of weekends ago I felt an unrelenting urge to get out of the city. I went to Cycle Gear and bought new side mirrors to replace the ones the bears had damaged in Alaska, grabbed a couple of essentials, and headed home to load up the bike. I didn't need a ton of stuff--tent, bag, camping pad, some cooking gear, a book, toothbrush, a layer of warm clothing, and Dog.

Down to the garage I went to load up the bike and replace the mirrors. After the attack on the bike in Seward, the mirrors have a tendency to collapse inward at highway speeds, or even at lower speeds if the bike has been sitting in the sun. The weakend ball joint gets warm and no longer holds its position, allowing the mirrors to turn in with the force of the wind, giving me a nice view of my own chest--completely useless as I am fairly certain road danger will not come in the form of one of my own boobs sneaking up on me.

I took off the mirror on the left and...fail. The hardware was the wrong fit. I looked at all the pieces I had to see if there was a way I could make it work, but there was no chance. So, lesson learned--BMW parts only on the GS. I guess I should have known better. I put the broken mirror back on, but manage to tweak it into a new position so it doesn't collapse.

I rode out through Ramona and Santa Ysabel, stopping at the little grocery to get a big bottle of beer for the campsite. While in line at the grocery, a couple in riding gear came up to me all smiles and practically buzzing with excitement.

"Tell us where you've been and where you're headed on your trip!"

I explained that this time it was just an overnighter since, at the moment, I was temporarily living in San Diego. Faces fell, and buzzing went away.

"Oh. We saw the bike loaded up and the map in the tank bag (actually just left there from my ride out in east county) and all the stickers on your luggage and we just thought you were on some big trip..."

They looked so sad, I felt like I needed to apologize for only doing an overnight trip. What a disappointment I was! They turned around and walked out of the store--I guess they had only come in looking for me. When I walked out, I saw them getting back on their bike. They were riding two up on a cruiser, and probably just out for a nice Sunday ride.

I stashed my beer and headed off toward Palomar Mountain. There were two campgrounds I had ridden by before, and after doing some online reading, I tout I would check out the Observatory Campground. I pulled in, did a drive through, and though there were a lot of "reserved" signs up, there were a couple open spots. I decided that I would go drive thorough Frye Creek Campground, just to check it out. It was relatively empty, but I liked the other campground better--sites were further from the road, many a small hike up the hill in nice little areas.

I returned to Observatory, drove through and chose a spot. I unloaded the bike and walked down the road to pay my fee. When I got back to the site, I began getting out my tent. A truck drove up and parked, blocking my bike in, and a guy jumped out yelling, "Is that campsite 8?"

I told him it was and he told me he had reserved it for the night. I asked if he was certain. There had been signs up on many sites stating they were reserved, but not on that one. He proceeded to wave a piece of paper at me saying he had reserved it, the rest of the campground was full,and I could go talk to the campground host about it. He was behaving like a complete asshole, and his wife looked appropriately sheepish about it.

I told him I would go talk to the host, get my money back and then return. There had been a mix up due to people helping the campground host since she had broken her foot in three places. Apparently the helpers were nicer than they were good at helping. The host told me the campground was not full, and I could pick any other open spot. When I walked back, the wife asked if everything was ok, and I told her I was going to just take one of the other OPEN spots.

Her husband looked at me as I gathered my stuff and finally put it together that it was my bike in the parking spot. His eyes got big and he actually smiled as he asked, "Hey, is that your bike?"

I have to admit, I turned and kind of stared at him, amazed at the change in his attitude simply because he realized I rode a bike.

"Yup," I said and promptly turned away, shutting him down. What a douche bag.

At that point, I made the decision that I was not interested in being around a ton of people. I didn't need the coming together of happy campers, sitting around telling stories and making friends. Nope, not having it. So I got on the bike and rode back to the other campground, setting myself up in a nice spot, making dinner, and drinking the big Stone beer I picked up. I enjoyed the sounds of nothing but nature and a remote campfire crackling across the canyon.

The next morning, I got up and very leisurely made breakfast and coffee. Riding in the day before, I saw a trailhead and thout I would check it out. I started up the trail thinking, "Holy crap, this is ridiculously steep!" Eventually it leveled out a little and it was more of a steady climb. The trail circumnavigated the campground and was maybe 5 miles in length. I decided not to do the trail all the way around, just doing about two miles out and two miles back. It was all I needed for the morning. The sun was shining, not a cloud in the sky. It was probably in the low 70s and gorgeous. As I came back, I realized that when I started the trail, I missed part of it, following what was probably a game trail and not the marked trail. The marked trail actually traversed the hillside, didn't go straight up. Doh!

When I left the campground, I rode up to the observatory on the top of the mountain. I've been there once before, and the telescope they have is an engineering marvel. There are a couple of tours daily, or for free you can just walk up, go inside and view the telescope. When i was done there, I had a nice time riding down off the mountain, taking my time and enjoying the scenery. It was a Monday afternoon which meant no weekend traffic to deal with. I love how close the mountain is to San Diego, and yet how far away it seems when I'm there. Definitely a place to check out if you're in the area.