15 October 2012

My girls!

I thought it might be time for a quick word on motorcycles for short girls. At slightly under 5'3 1/2" (yes, I claim that 1/2"), I had a hard time finding an adventure/dual sport bike to fit me. I sat on every possible bike and attempted to pick them up. The sales guy at Fay Myers just shook his head, and then put me on a KTM 990 for shits and grins. That was embarrassing. Most bikes were too tall for me to get anything but my tip toes on the ground, and most bikes had geometry that just didn't work either. Although you can lower many bikes, shave down seats, raise and swivel handlebars, nothing was working.

The Red Devil before I put some body and upholstery work into her. I bondo-ed the huge dent in the tank and painted it and the side covers, and hand painted and stitched a new leather seat. She's totally sweet now!

I had started off on my little 1980 Honda CM200T. I couldn't flat foot her either, but at barely over 300 lbs., it wasn't a problem. The bigger bikes, though, weigh a whole lot more and the weight is higher. The KLRs and KTMs are relatively nice and light, but have seat heights over 33". Motorcycles are made for men, not short women.

Then I discovered the BMW F650GS. One can buy the bike factory lowered and with a lower seat; I can flat foot bikes like that easily. Buying a used bike, however, I didn't have the best of luck finding one. So I bought a standard bike that actually had a taller than stock seat. I LOVE that seat, and didn't want to lose it for a shorter one, so I opted for lowering the bike with 1" Kouba Lowering Links. I also added 3/4" handlebar risers, and though I can just get the balls of my feet on the ground, I have stopped dumping it regularly. Well, if I'm not out on trails I don't dump it anymore....

My Girls--Thumper the Ice Queen and The Red Devil

I'm shopping dirt/trail bikes now. I've been reading a thread on ADV Rider about short women and their bikes, and I've put together a short list of bikes to look at. This summer I sat on a woman's Honda CRF230 and really liked it. (she sat on my GS and loved it too. I don't think her husband was too happy about that...) The CRF and a couple others are at the top of my list. When I get around to narrowing it down and buying a new bike, I'll let you know what I chose.

If you're a short girl looking for a bike, or a guy looking for a bike for your short girl, check out the ADV Rider thread. It's called "The Shortypants Thread: We are short women and this is what we ride." It has great bike info for shorty girls, and inspiring pictures of woman riders of all ages.

07 October 2012

Southeastern Alaska and the AMHS--part 3

Leaving Sitka on the ferry at 4 gave us part of the day to roam downtown galleries, and some time to prep for the next three days on board the ship. Once we loaded the bikes on the ferry, they would not leave the ship until Bellingham, WA. Once we got on board, with the exception of stopping for 7 hours or so in Ketchikan, we wouldn't leave the ferry until WA also. We received a phone call from Jay (From Estes Park on a KLR--we met him in Tok at the motorcycle campground and he got on the ferry a couple days later to get home) giving us the low down on the ferry food and drink situation.

Waiting to load bikes on the ferry. Typically we were last on first off, which was silly as far as I was concerned. We had to tie down or untie, which takes considerably longer than just getting in your car and starting it. Duh!


My bike loaded up with food and drink for the next three days. My tank bag holds two boxes of Bota Box wine!


The ferries that do the longer runs have a cafeteria, dining room, and a bar. The dining room is a formal ship dining room serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The cafeteria is open with a selection of pre-made foods and a special or two each day. It is reasonably priced, and if you need to charge electronics, there are a number of outlets at tables, so you can kill two birds with one stone. The bar is 21 and over, and has a selection of chips to accompany your drink order.


The cafeteria has microwaves available to passengers. Popcorn was a must for the movie theater, and hot chocolate with peppermint schnapps made for a cozy drink out on the breezy decks. Not that we took alcohol on board--that's not allowed...

Once we got aboard, we found lounge chairs in the solarium where we set up Thermarests and sleeping bags and stashed our gear. We decided to do that under the heat lamps rather than pitch a tent on the deck below. A word of warning **a -5 degree sleeping bag is NOT NEEDED while sleeping on the deck** I think sleeping in a Snuggie would make one sweat under those lamps!

The view from my "bed"

As we wandered the ship, checking where everything was (bathrooms, eating areas, movie theater and arcade, showers and laundry) and committing each deck to memory, the captain announced porpoises off the port side. We headed outside to the aft deck to check them out, and a woman came running out past us and took a couple of great pictures of them flying through the air. She was soon joined by three men, and we discovered they were the owners of four other GSs we saw when we loaded our bikes on. Brian, Chris, Blair and Mike were all from Aspen/El Jebel where they volunteer with the Aspen fire department together. They offered us drinks and we all stood around chatting and drinking boxed wine, which we had all managed to bring on board.

And was I happy or what?? Finally, another female motorbiker!!! Chris and I talked gear, underwear, and what it's like to do a trip like this with only guys. She rides a beautiful 1200GS and did her very best to talk me into upgrading. Over the next couple of days, we spent time with this group of people and one other rider, Ross on a V-Strom, from Utah.

We had one port of call in Ketchikan. We all disembarked and headed for the bus stop. The ferry terminal was two miles from downtown and we rode in, walked around the downtown area for about half an hour, and walked the two miles back to the boat. Ketchikan was my least favorite of all the towns/cities we visited. It is geared primarily to tourists, and though there are probably great things to do if you can stay a few days and leave the city, a few hours around town doesn't get you much.

Back on the boat, we made our first visit to the bar. Totally reasonably priced, well-stocked, and tended by Tony. Tony was AWESOME! He had obviously been tending bar for the ferry system for MANY years and was quite good at it. Remembered my name immediately and what I drank, so when I walked into the bar on the following days, he had my drink to me in no time without my even asking.


In the bar--they roll on kegs of Alaskan Amber beer. Sweet!

I found three days on the boat to be a bit tedious. I read a lot, ate a lot, drank a lot (cuz really, I wasn't gonna have to drive anywhere...) and tried to run around a lot to get rid of some energy. I also indulged in daily showers. That was nice. For everyone.

We would be leaving the ferry for good at 8am, so the night before I packed all my crap back up before going to sleep. That was when I discovered my motorcycle key was missing. I went through everything I had. Three times. I had a spare, but my real one was on my new mushing dog key chain from Denali, and I really wanted it. Finally it dawned on me that I had probably left it in the bike, as I usually do. But Josh said that no, I hadn't done that. The car decks are closed except for 2-3 times a day, when they are open for 15 minutes. I had just missed one, and it wouldn't be open again until midnight. So I set my alarm, met the people going down to walk their dogs, and sleepily went down to find it in my bike. Duh! It's not like the bike was going anywhere, so I left it and went back to bed.

In Bellingham, WA with Brian, Chris and Mike. Not sure where Blaire is....


In the morning, we met up with the Aspen crew after we all had our bikes and were off the boat. We exchanged contact info, said goodbye, and headed off towards Seattle, where we would spend the next couple of days with family.


05 October 2012

World Animal Day

Thursday, October 4 was World Animal Day. Most of you reading this, if you know me even a little, know I love animals. One of the best parts of motorbiking to and from Alaska was the wildlife viewing from the bike as I rode through the beautiful landscapes. I have learned something crucial about wildlife in the great white north vs wildlife here at home. Every animal I saw alongside the road this summer in Canada and Alaska either stayed put as I approached or, and this was more likely, ran like hell away from the road. Once I returned to Colorado, however, I frequently came across herds of deer I had to slow down or even stop for.

Once I got back to Colorado, I started working with a group called Historicorps, restoring parts of an historic lodge in Jefferson County. Some nights I spent near the worksite and some nights I returned to Denver. Regardless of where I was coming from in the mornings, I became quite alert to deer in the area, as I often saw them near or on the road, and they inevitably would turn TOWARDS me. Colorado deer=not so smart!

Yesterday, after a great day of riding down near the Springs, I headed back home via that same highway I took every morning of that project. A couple of miles from Pine Junction, where the highway meets 285, a deer charged onto the road and hit me. I had been looking in to the right side of the road, up the hill for animals and saw him way too late to do anything about the situation. It was a buck and out of the corner of my eye as I saw it come at me, and then watching it in my rear view mirror, it looked small. But he had, what I was told later, a nice rack. Heh, heh. His head was down and he hit me on the left side in the hand with his antlers, and my leg with his body. I screamed in my helmet, no lie. I saw him kind of roll around the back of the bike and scramble up the hill to my right, so I hope he was okay. I really hope he was okay.

I managed to keep the bike upright and on the road My hand was swollen by the time I got home and my hand guard is bent and the metal bracket is torn. Relatively lucky outcome I would say. I checked out the ADV Rider forum threads regarding people who had hit animals while riding, and surprisingly this happens fairly often with bucks. Other animals are often hit broadside because they happened to be crossing the road at the wrong time. It seems, however, that bucks hit to the side--not all of them fairing quite as well as my guy did.

When I got home, I flipped the chicken calendar to October, as it hadn't been done yet. That was when I noticed it was World Animal Day. I feel like maybe that buck didn't think I was doing enough to show my appreciation that day, and decided to teach me a lesson.