10 July 2017

A Moving Memorial

A number of years ago, my friend and riding partner, Ian Mcleod, lent me John Maclean's book, Fire on the Mountain: The True Story of the South Canyon Fire. In 1994, a wildfire ripped thought the mountains above Glenwood Springs, CO. Though it was originally mis-reported as burning in South Canyon, it actually burned on what is known as Storm King Mountain.

The fire was started by a lightning strike originally, and was quite small to begin with. They actually allowed it to smolder for a couple of days because it was so small. Sadly, winds shifted and ignited what was thought to be a small and unremarkable fire, turning it into a raging fire. The fire spread quickly, and crews were brought in from different wildland firefighting companies across the western U.S.

The book is well worth a read. It is head-shaking and heart breaking. By the time the fire was finally extinguished, 14 members of a hotshot, smoke-jumper, and helitack crew had been killed. It was the largest loss of life in a wildfire since Mann Gulch. Nine of those hotshots were members of a crew out of Prineville, OR.

My trip from which I've just returned found me putting gas in my bike in Prineville, a small community right in the middle of Oregon. I decided to go inside the store and ask the cashier if there was a memorial to the firefighters, and she gave me directions. A few minutes later, I pulled up to a beautiful park. A large bronze statue honoring wildland firefighters was hard to miss, but smaller and far more powerful was a path through a garden, with individual stones dedicated to each crew member from that fire.

I knew I would want to share this story and the few pictures I took with people. But this morning, as I watched the news and read stories online of fires burning all over the western U.S. and Canada, I knew I needed to get it done now.

Though many wildland fires are started naturally--particularly this time of year--by lightning strikes, at the moment there are more than 100 fires burning in Canada which were started by people. We have all heard the stories over the years--sometimes there is some asshole who starts fires. But, more often, a human-started fire is the end product of someone carelessly leaving a campfire smoldering. A camper may not notice the slightly smoldering or quietly burning embers under what looks to be an extinguished fire. They put it out, or let it burn out, the night before. It appears extinguished the next morning as they break camp, so they leave it. Then, winds shift and blow smoldering embers into dry brush, igniting we fires.

Experienced, responsible people put their fires dead out, or choose to not have a fire during the height of the hot, dry, fire season. I choose the latter--I do not carry enough water on my motorcycle to put fires dead out when I am in a dispersed spot, so I don't start one. I have friends who are wildland firefighters, risking their lives to extinguish these fires. I do not need to risk adding to their already heavy burdens.

If you camp, and you insist on having a campfire, PUT IT OUT--DEAD OUT! Fully drown your fire with water. Stir it, adding dirt to the ashes, and fully douse it again with water. You should be able to put your hand in those coals and feel no heat. Give it a few more minutes, and add more water just to be certain. You can find very detailed instructions on how to have a responsible campfire, when they are allowed,on the U.S. Forestry Service website.

Wandering along the path, reading the stones, like the one pictured above, dedicated to each member of that crew was very moving. It made that book and its story feel more personal. I hope to never have to see a memorial like this dedicated any of my friends, or any other firefighter for that matter. I will continue to strive to be responsible. I hope you will also.

 

07 July 2017

3,497 Miles Solo...or was I?

Helpful hint from your friendly neighborhood moto-traveler: Take pictures with your helmet hair in the shadows. No one will be able to tell how awful it looks!

"Wow! That's a long way for you to ride by yourself..." Said the guy on the ultra clean 1200GSA, wearing almost no gear at the gas station. His wife who was sitting on a curb--unhappily hurrying down her lunch--had even less gear on, but more excitement for me and my trip.

My fourteen day, 3,497 mile trip at the end of June might have been a long way for him to ride alone, but not for me. The truth is that I might have started out by myself and finished the trip by myself, but I wasn't alone. I met loads of new people, saw some old friends, rode with friends old and new, and spent some very precious time with family.

Strangers automatically asked where I was riding from, especially after my second day in. Riding an average of 400 miles a day and camping those first few night, a person could tell I was not local. How? Well, it could have been the wealth of dried, crispy bugs on my bike, my riding gear, and my helmet. Or, it could have been my helmet hair--so attractively matted flat to my head. Maybe the Colorado license plate. Maybe a combo....

Having another person along on the trip can save you from taking pictures like this...
Ok, this one is better.

Have you ever traveled alone? It's not for everyone. But, if you can do it, a whole new door to the world of getting to know people opens up. And, if you're on a motorcycle, it opens even wider!

Take Natalie, for instance. Riding from Portland, Oregon to Plain, Washington one day, I pulled into a rest stop. Across the sidewalk and under a tree, sat a set of grandparents with their (I'm guessing on age here) 5 year old granddaughter. As I returned from the ladies room, I saw the three of them watch me pass by. I took sometime to have a snack, and as I did, the trio walked back to their car, which was parked next to me.

Grandma told me their granddaughter liked my motorcycle. I told them she could come over closer if she wanted, and she scooted right around! She told me how much she liked it, and that her name was Natalie. I wanted to let her sit on it, but the blazing sun had turned my seat into something akin to a stone in a pizza oven, and I didn't want her to burn her little legs.

What I found so completely amazing, and uplifting, as we talked about my travels and things I had seen on this trip, was the grandparents enthusiasm in encouraging Natalie to like the bike, and the idea of traveling by motorcycle. They did not indicate that they rode at all, but I would guess they were travelers. We all left that exchange with big waves, and bigger smiles! I predict a future GS Girl from that meeting!

In western Wyoming, after I left Utah, but before I headed back into Utah, I was stopped for road construction. These stoppages would happen frequently on this trip. As the car in front of me and I rolled up to the flag-holder, I cut my engine. I figured I'd be there a while, and that thought was confirmed as I heard the woman tell the driver in front of me it would be about a fifteen minute wait.

As we were waiting, her golden retriever--a certified service and therapy dog named Peaches--went walking by. As I had some time, I slid off my bike and made a new friend. As I was petting her, the flag-holder wandered over and started a conversation. She was a lovely woman, and wanted to hear all about my trip.

At one point, she made a comment, marveling at the idea of traveling alone--not having to go where someone else wanted you to go, or having to stop when they wanted to stop, even if you didn't. I thought about it, and agreed that it was fun to be in charge of where I went, when I stopped, how long or how far I rode each day. When you travel in a group, even two, you have more than just yourself and your own wishes to consider. There is something very freeing, and even indulgent-seeming, about traveling alone.

I really enjoyed that exchange. It was a chance for me to not only meet someone new (and a dog!), but to reflect on the opportunity of being on a trip alone.

Later that day, as I rode through farmland, interrupted by only the tiniest of towns, I got to indulge in one of my favorite pastimes of traveling alone. With music and the engine hum as background, I would slowly ride through those little towns, looking at the houses, imagining the occupants and their lives, and playing the game of "Could I Live Here?"

I would take into account such things as proximity to cool nature stuff (rivers, forest, rock to climb), how cute the main street was (do they preserve--or even have--historic buildings), and if there was a liquor store in town. The real important things.... I grew up in a small town in Northern California, so I often thought I could really enjoy small town life again. But, let's be honest, if it's not within 30-45 minutes of a real city with some good restaurants, some theatre, and a good motorcycle dealership, I'm out. Still, it's a fun game.

I am not interested in only traveling alone. I love traveling win Josh, or a small group of people. It is fun to have someone to share and compare stories with at the end of the day, or while on the road through our Sena com systems. But, every now and then, a trip alone does wonders for my soul,and I embrace it.

There will be more blog posts about this trip coming: trip route, a description and review of the Touratech Rally for those who have never been, and maybe a couple more stories. Stay tuned!

 

02 July 2017

It's Almost Here!!!

Who is getting excited? This girl!

So, it finally happened. This thing I've been thinking about peripherally is almost here, and I finally realized it's actually going to happen. I've known this monster trip was coming for the last five years. But, for so long, it has been a long way off. It is no longer a thing onthefar off horizon. In fact, I am less than two months away.

I went to Barnes and Noble today, and had a moment. My older brother texted me a picture this morning of me in ADVMoto Magazine. I thought I should go pick up a copy--you know my mom will want to see it--and I found myself in front of a beautiful array of motorcycle magazines. I picked up one particularly stunning magazine called Overland, and flipped through it. It's beautifully laid out, with great stories of people traveling all over the world.

As I stood there enjoying such a lovely periodical, it suddenly hit me. I'm going to be one of these people soon! I won't be standing at home or at work, reading other people's stories, and envying their adventures. On Tuesday, August 29, I get to set out on a trip that I have been planning for, thinking about, saving places on a map, and saving money from each paycheck in an account just for this purpose.

I can't lie, I got a little emotional. I stood there and said, out loud, "I get to go do this!"

Does this little moment of mine seem like a surprise? I have, after all, been thinking about if for five years. But, that's just it. For five years, it has been something so far off, something hypothetical. In the last year, I have let almost everyone know about it. Some people knew from the beginning, and either forgot about it, or like me, figured it was a nice pipe dream that would probably never come to fruition.

As I have let people know more recently--particularly riders and travelers--there has been a huge outpouring of moral support. I am ever so grateful and appreciative to everyone who has offered positive words, cheered me on, and asked for my blog address to follow along.

Our three day trip--gotta test out the gear!

Do you want to do it? Do you want to go on an epic adventure of some sort, but aren't sure how to make it happen? You can. I've just returned from what I consider an epic adventure. I spent 14 days out and rode 3,497 miles. It was 14 days, not 10 months, but it was amazing in its own way. Just before that, Josh and I rode three days and camped two nights. It was its own adventure. Take yours!

Want advice on how to figure it out? Ask someone who has done it. It is within your reach. There are a number of resources including websites and local communities where you can find people who have done it.

The first day of my recent two week trip--everyday just kept getting better!

I am so excited! It is so close. Follow along with me. I have two more rallies to attend, and a month of work before I go. It seems like a lot, but I keep reminding myself that loading up and getting on the road with Josh is actually the easy part. Come with us!

 

Baja California, Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina, Antarctica, Brazil, BMW, GS, F700GS, Suzuki V-Strom, DL650, REV'IT, Mosko Moto, AltRider, Dual Sport, Adventure Touring, South America, Central America

 

05 June 2017

They're All Girls!

Finer weather has returned to the front range of Colorado, and so has that itch we all have to get out and ride. Everyone is emerging from the winter months, ready to drag the bikes out, meet up, and head out on adventures. Last weekend kind of marked the start of the Colorado GS Girl riding season, in a way none of us thought it would.

Jennifer Zakaria was hoping a couple people might want ride. Twenty-five showed up!

One of our newest members, Jennifer, posted on our Facebook page, asking if anyone was up for a ride on Saturday. Immediately, Kandi Spangler said the equivalent of "Hell yes!" and created an event to get people out and brush off the cob webs. I saw it and said I was IN and would sweep for her ride, and by the day before the event, it appeared fourteen people would be joining us.

We met at a restaurant in Golden, and pretty quickly, those fourteen showed up. Then more. Then more. Pretty soon, we had about 25 people eating, chatting, laughing, and planning out three different ride routes. Kandi and I stuck with our plan to take people out on a beginner-friendly, road ride.

Well, we mostly stuck with that plan. We left Golden with eight of us in the group--seven women and one man. Getting out of Golden was the most difficult part of the ride as it turns out. There is a bunch of construction happening at a bridge, that on a busy Saturday afternoon of tourists, bicyclists, and motorcyclists, backs traffic up past a roundabout. The group of eight of us patiently sat at that roundabout for a good, long while, waiting for the chance to get us all through, and one of my favorite moments of the day happened.

As we were sitting, a group of three men on bicycles rode past us up the sidewalk, and as they did, the guy in the back yelled to the other two, "They're all GIRLS!"

I laughed in my helmet. It wasn't a surprise to us we were all--well, mostly all...sorry, Scott--girls. But I suppose an entire line-up of women riding adventure bikes, could be a surprise. In fact, I have to say we could have made a great commercial or print ad for BMW--all seven women were riding F700 or 650 Twin GSs. And this was purely by coincidence!

We headed south, and I watched my outside temperature gauge climb to just above 80 degrees. Hello, Colorado spring day! We stopped at a gas station in Sedalia, and while a couple people topped off tanks, more of us shed layers and bought Gatorade. A discussion quickly ensued over which flavor was best. Though I usually buy something in the pale green or pale yellow color--I like my energy drink to look like urine, apparently--the store had been out and I picked up blue. What flavor was it? Blue. Seriously, what flavor even is a pale blue energy drink? No idea, I'll just call it blue.

Our first stop in Sedalia to shed layers and buy some colorful drinks.

We discussed the route we would take from there, with the lead rider, mid-sweep, and sweep (me) riders all checking they knew the route. We headed south from Sedalia, riding towards Palmer Lake, with the idea we would cut east on Noe Road. That would take us under I-25, then further east to the plains. From there, the idea was to turn north on 83, ride to Parker, and then everyone would return to her own home from there.

SUCH a fun group!

So, remember how I said we were going to do a road ride? When we looked at the map, I said I thought that one of the roads we were looking at might be dirt. But, the map made it look like it was paved...so the plans were made.

Guess what--it was not paved. We all safely and comfortably rode the short section of Noe to I-25, where we said goodbye to Scott, and discussed what was ahead. It was agreed that a few more miles of the wide, well-cared-for dirt roads would be preferable to the interstate, and we gave a few tips about turning off ABS and standing up. We also talked about weighting the outside peg in a turn/curve, but on the nearly straight road we were on, it wasn't needed much.

With Kandi leading, we made it east to 83 almost without incident. A few miles in, I was happily riding along enjoying the sweeping views of the plains. As I turned my my gaze back to the road, I see the bike in front of me lose traction in a loose, washboard area of the road. She went into a pretty good tank-slapper, dabbed her left foot, righted her bike, and continued on. She gave me a thumbs-up, and about a mile later when we got to the intersection with the pavement, I pulled up next to her and asked if she was ok. She was pretty rattled, but also feeling good about having pulled out of it.

Tess Landon--we couldn't have asked for a better day to ride!

We turned north and rode into Parker, stopping at a large gas station. We took a few pics of the group, drinks were purchased, and bathrooms were used. While we were chatting, one of the truck drivers honked his horn. I thought I should show off my Stebel Nautilus horn.

So everyone could hear the difference, I had Kandi blow her stock horn first--wheeeeeeee.

Then I blew mine--WHAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH!!!!

There were many "wow"s, some laughter, and Kandi declared it was her mission to install one louder than mine! My horn sounds like a freight train, so I'll be curious to see how loud hers gets.

Eventually, we all went our separate ways, feeling like we had kicked the dust off with our first real spring ride, and happy to have gotten to know some new friends, and spent some good time with old friends. The day forecasted a great riding season to come!

Kandi Spangler--my moto sister!

 

Ilise Merritt--a longtime CO GS Girl!
Chris Briggs--on her return from a Baja trip on her Triumph cruiser, she stopped at a BMW dealer in San Diego, traded in her bike, and bought her first GS!

 

Wyatt--she also rides a Ruckus!

 

Jennifer--she's on the fence about keeping her 700, but I think the fun day helped tip her towards keeping it.

 

Tess--she got the "Tank Slapper of the Day" award!
That's the smile of a happy girl!

 

10 April 2017

Getting Dirty With Continuing Education!

I was so busy the whole day, I didn't take ANY pictures. So, for this post, I've just got this one to share.

Some women are perfectly comfortable picking up tools and wrenching on their bikes, while some find the idea of checking oil levels intimidating. This range of comfort is not exclusive to women at all, but fewer girls are introduced to tools as children/teens/young women, and that can naturally turn to a discomfort in a woman suddenly faced with a motorcycle that needs regular checking in order to be safe.

I was very lucky growing up to have been raised in a family that drove old VW bugs and late model, oil-sucking Mustangs. My father often had automotive tools in his hand, and was no stranger to carpentry, either. When I got to my first semester in college, my dad insisted I take an automotive class. At the time, I wasn't overly interested, but boy am I thankful now!

Now, let's not go thinking this turned me into a pro. None of that means that I jumped in,all crazy gung-ho, when I was faced with a 1980 Honda CM200Twinstar I had to push the final two blocks to work THE FIRST DAY I RODE IT THAT FAR. There were a lot of small moving parts that looked nothing like the Isuzu pick-up I worked on in that class. However, I watched a lot as Josh worked on that bike, and by the time I had a much more complicated GS, I was not afraid to pick up some tools and go at her. It helped a lot that I had downloaded the service manual for the BMW, and am good at reading and interpreting instructions.

While I've had some good luck and some good help, as I've gotten together with the GS Girls over the last year and a half, I've realized that many haven't. Some people aren't interested in wrenching, and some people are so intimidated, they'd rather throw money at a mechanic to work on a bike. There is NOTHING wrong with either of those things. However, some women want to know more, and there are some very basic things that everyone should know how to do on a bike, that aren't worthy of paying someone else for.

After talking to a few women, I decided I would host a Basic Maintenance class at my house, and called another GS Girl, Kandi Spangler, to see if she wanted to help out. One of our ladies needed to learn how to fix a flat prior to a trip to Moab, so we threw that skill into a class of basic maintenance, and had ourselves a day.

On a drizzly, cloudy, cold Saturday morning, 19 people showed up at my house--15 women and four men attended! We started by discussing tool sets--ways to build them, ways to carry them--then moved to discussing the differences between an owner's manual and a service or repair manual. One of our long-time GS Girls, Robin, brought a hard copy of a service manual with the pages separated into plastic sleeves--perfect for greasy finger garage days--and I showed all of my service manuals downloaded to the iPad--perfect for taking the manual along on long trips.

We then moved to the bikes, where we went over very basic maintenance which should be performed before and/or after a ride. This was the heart of the class. We discussed checking oil and tire pressures, checking and properly adjusting chain slack, checking the air filter and coolant levels, lubing a chain, and keeping forks clean. I had all three of my bikes out, and demonstrated different things on each. I pointed out how each of the bikes was different, but required the same checks with slightly differing techniques.

We then moved on to fixing flats. As I need a new rear tire on Camille anyway, I put a nail in her. Then, it went something like this.

L: Oh no, Kandi!

K: What's wrong, Louise?

L: I have a nail in my tire!

K: Oh no! how did that happen?

L: I don't know. Could you help me fix it?

(I know the script sounds boring, but it was an Oscar worthy performance, I guarantee!)

So, with me reading instructions out loud, Kandi demonstrated plugging a tubeless tire. We moved on from there to fixing a tubed tire. For this demonstration, I had planned to use the front tire on Thumper. We did end up doing that, but it took FOREVER to get that damn axle out. It was, sadly, the perfect example of one of the first things I told the group that day--always expect a project to take three times as long as you think it will. Later in the day, Josh reminded me that axle is directly across from the clothes dryer exhaust, so it typically sits there getting dried out and rusting.

Oh, right.

It made me feel better recalling my struggles with it--and having to ask for help--once he mentioned that.

By the time we were done, it was nearly 4:00 in the afternoon. Slowly through the day, people had to leave to get to other commitments and their families. Seven or eight of us were ready to head inside, chow down on some more food, and just chat. Another friend who had been riding all day, made it to the house in time for food, and playing with the kitty.

It had been a terrifically fun day, and I got good feedback from people about what they each got out of it. There were a lot of great questions asked during the course of the day. And, as people asked them, I realized not only how much I had learned in a relatively short period of time on a motorcycle, but how glad I was I could share this knowledge with our amazing group.

I posted a couple of pictures on Instagram and Facebook, and got great responses from across the country. Mostly, they were responses such as, "I wish I lived closer so I could have gone" or "I wish someone out here would do something like that."

My response to all of them was that it had been a blast, and why not make it happen where you live? It wasn't too hard to organize--thank you Facebook--and it didn't take a lot of time or cost a lot of money. We shared what we knew, had a chance to catch up, and even got to meet a couple of people who were brand new to the group.

I sat down at the end of the day, and realized I had not done so since 7:30 that morning. But, rather than just being exhausted, I was exhausted AND felt great. And I'll tell you, we were having so much fun, one of my neighbor's came over to see what the fun was she was missing out on! I highly encourage people who have the skills--or maybe just a good space and a friend with the skills--to host a day like this--you'll be glad you did.

 

17 January 2017

The AltRider Eyebrow!

The what?

Oh, you'll see!

After a few years and more than 50,000 miles on motorcycles, I have heard some pretty good stories and seen some mind-boggling pictures of shit breaking on motorcycles. With a summer of off-road riding and coaching coming up, and a nine month trip into foreign countries waiting in the wings, I've been looking to protect that sizeable financial investment I made into my new, beautiful, BMW girl, Camille.

I have loaded up on the crash protection--which is not only protecting her, but making her look badass at the same time--and now I've got one more piece to add.

Lexan: Tough, Virtually Unbreakable. Challenge accepted! I'm pretty sure I'll be putting that to the test.

The AltRider Lexan Headlight Guard. One piece, and two reasons.

Reason one: I've seen some cracked/broken headlight pics in some posts. I DO NOT want to be in the middle of nowhere, Nicaragua, and have something shatter my headlight. First of all, that would suck and be dangerous. Second, do you know how much a new headlight assembly for a BMW F700GS costs??? A. Lot.

Reason two: I finally settled on a new windscreen for the bike in the middle of last summer. Let It Ride ordered it for me, and as soon as it came in, I had it installed and was playing with it within 15 minutes. It's a great windscreen that is adjustable, depending on the type of riding I want to do and the helmet I'm wearing, with the adjustable part able to be completely removed if I want to ride baby-heads and not run the risk of smashing the taller piece to bits. The downside to the new windscreen--my headlight reflects right back up into it, nearly blinding me at night.

I didn't notice this until I went back to work, and was commuting home after the time change. Suddenly I was riding in the dark, something I do pretty infrequently as it turns out. I'd turn the bike on in the parking garage, and the lower part of my windscreen was shooting light back into my eyes. What was worse, was hopping on the freeway and having not only the eye-level, blindingly bright headlights from pick-up trucks coming at me, but my own bike attempting to take out what was left of my vision.

Both of these problems were solved by installing the AltRider guard. I actually talked to Jeremy LeBreton, the owner of AltRider, before I bought this product. What I really wanted was the metal mesh-like headlight guard, but I could only find it listed on their website as being available in silver for the 700GS. It was available in black for other models, and I asked him why it wasn't in black for the 700. Jeremy was very honest in his answer, and in the small laugh he gave before he answered, I could tell this was something he may have been asked before. He told me his company is a small company that aims to be able to provide all they can in quality, American-made, products. But being small means they can't carry everything in every option.

It's funny to hear something like this. In this country, we can walk into a grocery store and have twenty options for ketchup. Hell, I can walk into a pet store and probably have an option for doggy ketchup. But these are mega-stores, with mega warehouses, and hundreds of retail outlets. Loads of room to store things. And honestly, I look at those twenty versions of ketchup, and I still go to a smaller store that has only two or three higher quality versions, and I pick one of those, or go home and make it myself. (True story, I'm weird.)

I did look at other companies for other options, and there is another high quality company that makes a black metal mesh headlight guard. But, as Jeremy explained to me, the AltRider version has something that makes it SO MUCH BETTER. Okay, my words not his. He just said his has an added bonus that makes it better. So I ordered the clear Lexan headlight guard, and waited for it to arrive. After I installed it, and rode around at night, I found out why it was SO MUCH BETTER.

I call it The Eyebrow. It's a simple piece of plastic that sits on top of the headlight guard, bridging the distance to the bike's headlight assembly, and preventing the light from bleeding upward, onto the windscreen. No more blinding night rides!

Installing the Eyebrow!

And, of course, the order came complete with easy-to-follow instructions, and it took me very little time to install it. (In all honesty, it took me very little time to install it because I didn't attempt to install it upside down the first time. I'm getting better...)

The clear guard has a nice looking, brushed stainless partial frame, which attaches to the mount with nifty, quarter-turn quick-release hardware I've never used before. Once the install is done, it is quick and easy to remove the guard to clean it and snap it back in place, without having to worry that it might pop off when I drop the big girl in a baby-head studded ravine. <----hmmmm...I'm starting to see a pattern here.

The only complaint I have, and it's a tiny one both literally and figuratively, is about the screw which holds the eyebrow in place. The instructions list the hardware that comes with it as being a T15 screw that you use to attach the eyebrow. The one that was sent to me was actually a size 1 combo screw. I don't know if it's because I'm girly and delicate (heh) or because I am not as experienced with tools as other people who do their own wrenching, but I found that screw difficult to use. On the plus side, I don't think I'll ever have to remove it in the life of the bike.

So, headlight guard--with eyebrow--in place, I stepped back from my bike and looked at it. I'll admit that initially I had been bummed about what I considered "settling" for the Lexan guard. It wasn't because I had concerns about its function--as it is "Tough, Virtually Unbreakable"--but more because I thought I really wanted the look of the black mesh. NOPE! Now that it's installed and I look at it, I love the clear headlight guard, and wouldn't trade it for anything!


Check it out!

DAAAAANNNNNGGGG!!! This bike is sexy!

 

South America Bound!

Getting ready to start the rest of the trip, ticking off this hemisphere on the bikes. Thank you Santa for the globe, and thank you Scott Henkel for the toy bikes!

I know that for most people traveling, nine months out seems an awfully long time away to start planning a trip. When one plans to pack an entire life on a motorcycle, put her household items into storage, and bail on her life for nine months, planning should have started long ago. In a way, it did. I can remember riding into Denver at the end of the Alaska trip and saying...

"Why are we stopping?? Oh right, we work in the performing arts. We have no more money or time."

The decision was made, right then and there, that five years later we would make a trip in the opposite direction

So...four years later, here I am. That trip to Alaska was my first motorcycle trip. Since then, I have made several more, found a love of off-road motorcycling, and started coaching. I LOVE motorbiking in a way that few get the opportunity to experience. I cannot wait to start on my southward journey. In the last few months, I have followed a number of people as they head south, enjoying their happiness and stocking up on helpful tips from them as they pass from country to country.

So, where do I start? Well, Josh and I started saving $$$ four years ago. A little bit every paycheck at first, then as it seemed it wasn't adding up fast enough, a little more each paycheck. I got the bike of my dreams (ish) last January. Did I love it? On the street, YES! On the dirt...well, it took me a little longer to love. I didn't love it at first. In fact, I didn't even like it. But now, I do love it.

LOVE IT!

But, Camille is still pretty bare bones. I've now got more protection on her in the way of crash bars, exhaust guard, etc., but there's more to do. So much more to do to my bike, and I haven't even decided on luggage. I suppose the actual "easy" part of preparing for this trip will be what to take in that luggage. Passport, sleeping bag, a map or two, iPad for blogging, appropriate layers, four pairs of underwear, and four pairs of socks. My favorite thing about making the last part of that statement is that my non-moto friends will think, "Only 4?" And my moto friends will think, "Seriously, you're taking 4? I only need 2."

Packing will be the relatively easy part. Getting the bike prepped for 20,000 miles of unknown terrain and unpredictable weather is taking a little more time and energy. I've gotten a fair amount done, have some accessories ordered and in the garage ready for install, and still have a lot of research to do.

In my mind, there is always the struggle between what I REALLY need versus what might be helpful, or isn't needed at all, but darn it, I WANT it. I mentioned I've been following some people as they ride south (and one amazing couple who rode north) and soaking up tips like I needed three sets of my paperwork at this border crossing or at minimum, ladies, take five pairs of underwear. I've also scrutinized what they have on their bikes, what broke along the trip, and what needed regular maintenance.

I'm not going to lie, it is often exciting and overwhelming at once. I'm tackling the bike, a few items at a time. Pretty soon, I will do like I did for the Alaska trip, and start throwing things on the bed in the guest room. That will start the process of what gets packed to go, and what gets chucked out every couple of weeks as I go back in and review what I thought seemed necessary.

But, speaking of the guest room, that is a whole other matter. We've decided to rent the house out for a year. I know, the trip is only nine months, but it seems a better idea to rent the house for a year--we'll figure out where to put ourselves for the other three months once we get there. That means, though, getting the house into a rentable state. With a little work, we can rent the house for a good deal of money, covering not only the mortgage, but also our storage unit for all our stuff, and having a little safety net money left over. Sweet deal, but that means we have yet another list of things to do.

Don't get me wrong--I am NOT complaining about the prep for this trip. There is a lot to do, but I am incredibly fortunate to be able to do this kind of trip at all. A lot of work has been done, and a lot more is ahead. I hope you'll join me for whatever part of it is interesting to you, and travel along with me. I've been doing that with people like Kevin, Laura, Daver, and Daniel and Polly. Even though I wasn't doing the physical traveling, I have gotten to experience cool places through their pictures and stories. Now it's my turn to share!

 

Really quickly, I mentioned following people on their trips up and down this hemisphere. I've found a number of blogs, Facebook pages, and Instagram pages to follow, including those of Daniel and Polly, also known as "motosurgicaldiaries". Daniel and Polly are a young English couple who flew their 1984 BMW PD to Argentina, rode to the southernmost tip, then turned north and rode as far as was possible, to Deadhorse, Alaska. I found them on Instagram through another friend, Mark Ferguson--ExploreTheDirt--began following them, and as they got into the states, I messaged them and said they were more than welcome to stay with us if they came through Denver. It was a little selfish on my part, as I wanted to meet them and hear about their trip. To our joy, they stopped and stayed with us, and we had a small dinner party along with my friend Mark and his family.

It was truly a joy to meet them, especially after following their trip and seeing some of the beautiful places we will get to see ourselves. Hopefully, as they follow along with us, my pics and stories will remind them of the joy and experience of their own.