Monday, May 31, 2010

Wimped out

My granddaughter made it out of her mother's womb at 2:10 this morning. I don't feel grandmother old, but maybe that's why I ended up in a cushy hotel after about 150 miles.

As much as I love the back roads, the novelty is starting to wear off. They're great out west, but there's a line somewhere, maybe at the Mississippi, where the speed limit drops, the traffic increases, and the towns are closer together. And while it's nice to know that there'll be gas when I need it, it's getting tougher to make good time. Campgrounds are almost non-existent on the secondary roads. I wish I had the nerve to just stop and pitch a tent somewhere, but I'm not sure how secure I'd feel. Between the pathetic distance I'm getting and the lack of camping facilities, I'll probably be getting back on the Interstate system soon.

I had planned for around 300 miles today. That would have put me at a campground midway through Ohio, with about 150 miles to go on Tuesday to my friend's home on the eastern side of the state. When I woke up this morning, Weather Underground was showing a 90% chance of thunderstorms in the area. I was surprised; the weather looked great. I called a friend in Fort Wayne who told me that there were some bad thunderstorms in the area. That didn't surprise me, and I figured I might get wet at some point, but I didn't see the storms as a threat to my progress. Boy was I wrong.

The clouds went from fluffy white ones in the distance to solid walls of dark grey. Then I took a right turn and the skies in front of me lightened up. Even though the roads got wet, I didn't see the point in stopping for rain gear. I'd be through it soon. Then the route turned left. Ugh. Time to stop and suit up. I got a little wet over the next few miles. At one point it got so thick that I thought I might drown from the water soaking the bandanna (water boarding came to mind). I started gulping the water down, trying not to think about whether the water I was swallowing was coming from the sky or off the road. It finally started to let up. In fact, I was so optimistic that I stopped in a nursing home parking lot to check the radar on my phone to see if I should remove my rain gear.

The radar wasn't looking too bad, but it wasn't time to remove the gear either. I took a few minutes to chat with the old guys sitting on the porch of the nursing home then buttoned up and headed out. I was in front of a grey SUV when I started out from the light. The vehicle passed me, got in front of me, then slowed down. I pulled out and started to pass, but seeing a wall of water up the road, I decided to get back behind the SUV so I could follow his taillights through the rough patches. It started and it came hard. Cars were pulling off on the side of the road. I could see walls of water blowing across the road ahead of me. Even though my guide was only a short distance in front of me, I was losing sight of him until he put his flashers on. At one point I glanced into the wind to see if there was a tornado coming. I wasn't sure what I'd do if there was and was glad I didn't see anything. I dodged lightening bolts, made it into town, and decided to stop for gas and wait out the storm.

I started to get gas, but there was so much water blowing under the roof over the gas pumps that I didn't dare remove my gas cap. The water flowing along the ground was over my ankles as well as the rims on my bike. I went inside to wait and check the radar again. The radar looked worse than it did earlier. I really wanted to get further than I was, but I didn't want to die either. I waited for a break between storms and headed for the nearest hotel. I'm a little discouraged. I feel like I should have been able to tough it out. Then I think it would be stupid to take those risks and put up with the crappy conditions when I don't have to. Whatever. Here I am in Huntington, Indiana. Boardman, Ohio tomorrow.


I was looking forward to a day with not much worth writing about, and I got it. Other than my surprise at how beautiful Iowa is, at least in the south, not much happened. I rode the back roads and didn't get a ton of miles behind me. It was a nice mellow day.

The picture here is of me crossing the Mississippi into Illinois. I thought I was taking a video. I've since figured out how to do that, so I can get it working on the fly.

I passed a lot of towns with flags. I value the fact that I can get on my bike and ride across the country whenever I want. Words will never be enough to express the gratitude for those who gave their lives for our freedom. The veterans who made it through alive have also done a great service to our country, and I thank them as well. Let's pray that we can strengthen the freedom that makes America such an incredible place to live rather than watch it all go down in a cesspool of over-legislation.

I had one badass moment passing through the south side of Peoria. I've been only in rural areas since leaving home, so the ghetto was a bit of a surprise. I passed a couple of guys on their new Harleys on my way out of town and noticed up ahead that there were a bunch of bikes lining a city block. From the look of the bikes, the building, and the guys out front, I determined it was a clubhouse and figured I'd just keep my eyes straight ahead and cruise on by. While things change, a lot stays the same, including the acceptance of women on bikes in some circles. I get it.

By the time I got closer, it appeared to be a bar with a lot of guys with shiny black customs all wearing shiny black tank tops and shiny black leather vests. Shiny isn't a word I associate with motorcycle clubs. They were far too polished. Anyway, one guy had his hand half way up in a wave, then must have noticed I was a chick. It's hard to explain the look on his face: quizzical... happily surprised... dumbfounded maybe? I went ahead and waved, since I was being waved to, and out of the corner of my eye, I saw a couple of the other guys wave back. I then cranked on the throttle and blasted over the bridge and out of town. My baby is loud and fast. I love her.

Women riding Harleys aren't unusual at all. I suppose that single women obviously geared up for a long road trip still are. Ladies, you need to get out there and do it. You're riding. That's great. Take the next step. Do an overnight to start out with, but keep pushing yourselves. There's a lot of talk about freedom. There is nothing more free than hitting the road by yourself.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Wildlife excitement

If you've read more than three things I've written, you've probably "heard" me say that you can't have a good story without adversity. Some days you don't want a good story. Some days you just want life without any bumps or sharp turns. If you take off an hour on each end of my day today, you'd have one of those vanilla days.

After a pleasant but sluggish morning at the KOA, I got on the road around 10:30 (9:30 in my home time zone). It was really windy, but I was ready to tough it out with the big trucks. I wasn't on the road 5 miles when a big bug came whipping across the port bow and lodged between my helmet strap and my face. No big deal, until about 5 seconds later when I realized it was a bee. Now it's 80 mph with extreme wind gusts, 18 wheelers, and me trying desperately to unwedge the stinging insect. Another reason why helmet laws suck. But seeing as how my badass self was cruising along with my ape hangers, no windshield, and minimal belongings, I felt it was my duty to forge ahead and not pull off at the rest area I was approaching. I managed to suck it up, and within an hour the pain was mostly gone.

I had another badass moment at lunch when I shared a parking lot with a couple of Geezer Glides. One of them was a Duracell with a trailer that was bigger than my car. I noticed two helmets with microphones attached. Please tell me what could be so important and so difficult to discuss while you're sitting right next to each other on a motorcycle that you actually require radio communication. I don't know about you, but I prefer to limit conversations to "I have to pee," which can be yelled across the lane to the other motorcyclist when that level of desperation had been reached. Sitting on the same bike? You need a radio? Really?

We were all ready to go at the same time, and as usual, the motorcycle enthusiasts were curious. Alone? Yes. Where from? Colorado. Where are you going? Uhhh, kinda wherever I end up, but initially New Hampshire. Why are you going east? That is a legitimate question, and checking out my new first grandbaby is a good answer. The copper top's passenger was worried about my safety. I assured her I'd done it before and thanked her. As I wandered back into the truck stop, I heard one of the guys say, "A 40 mph crosswind and no windshield. She has more balls than us." I wouldn't say that, but I found it quite amusing, especially since I am making the effort to go rogue on this trip.

Even funnier is that I'd had enough of the wind and the stupid helmet yanking my head around like a marionette, and within the hour I decided to bag I-80 and head down to Kansas on a smaller road. The reason I did that instead of toughing it out is because I have this map on my Biker or Not page that shows all the states I've ridden in, and I have four big empty white spots  indicating Kansas, Missouri, Iowa and Kentucky as places I've never been on two wheels. I figured I could swing down and take out Kansas and Missouri before heading back north to Iowa. It was only like half an inch on the map on my cell phone. No big deal. It was a beautiful, serene ride, but by the time I finally reached Missouri, I decided it might help if I have a real map for the trip.

I started heading north on I-35 to get back on my route in Iowa. While on the back road detour, I decided I'd prefer to take more back roads than Interstate, so while I was headed back north, it was not to get back on 80, but to pick up US34 for some west to east action. However, it had been a long day, and by the time I was nearing Iowa, the sun was going down, and I was ready to stop. I was searching for campground signs and finally saw a dilapidated set of painted boards indicating an RV park at the next exit.

I got off, hoping the park was still there. A sign said to turn left then head north 5 miles on US 69. The setting sun was creating a beautiful glow, so I decided to try and take a picture. I need to interject that ape hangers are really cool because you can fit so much shit between your headlight and the tops of the bars. I felt like Bullwinkle yesterday when I magically pulled a long forgotten camera tripod out of my saddlebag that I could velcro to the top of my bars. I had strategically looped the camera strap around the bar before securing the camera to the tripod, thinking about the time I so gracefully dropped my previous camera in the cup of coffee I was holding with the other hand. So anyway... I got the camera upright and turned on and was fiddling with it while riding about 60 down this back road. Out of the corner of my right eye I saw two deer hauling ass over the grassy bank beside me. I go for the brake and the clutch as the forward deer hits the road about 20 feet in front of me. I was sure the closer deer was going to take me out. Then she pulled a yard sale in the ditch. Totally wiped out - disappeared from view in the deep grass. I probably would have found it incredibly amusing if I wasn't in the middle of a severe adrenaline rush. And wouldn't you know, I didn't get a picture of the deer on the road in front of me. Some badass I am.

The RV park was a bust. I'm now at a flea bag motel just over the border in Iowa. I made about 500 mles today. Not bad, but not great. If I'd have stayed on I-80 I probably would have done more, but I'd probably be nursing a stiff neck too.

On the road

I've spent the last few months thinking about how I want to get back to New Hampshire to meet my new granddaughter. She's my first grandbaby and was due last Monday. Riding was an obvious choice, but I wasn't sure that I wanted to take all that time to go back east. I couldn't stand to fly back and not be able to ride some of my favorite routes, so I considered flying and renting a bike. Then I stumbled across this adorable bobbed Shovelhead in Manchester on Craigslist and had the brilliant idea to fly out, buy a bike, and ride it back. I worked on that option for a while, even buying a one way airplane ticket, but the logistics weren't working with me. In the meantime, I'd purchased a new rear tire and rear brakes and  had to replace a defective front tire. With all that tread available to me, I made a last minute decision to ride my bike.

Not too long ago, I came across some old friends on Facebook. I know that's what people do, but this was difficult for me at first. I left Georgia 20 years ago (on June 23rd) to escape a dangerous husband. I hated to leave my life there, but I wanted to raise my son in a safe environment. I didn't contact anyone, because I didn't want to put anyone in the position of having to keep the secret of where I was. After the death of said dangerous husband nine years ago, I'd moved on with my life and didn't consider reestablishing those friendships. Although feeling awkward and nervous about seeing these people again, I made plans to head to Georgia after leaving New Hampshire. Getting there via the Blue Ridge Parkway was an incentive, I have to admit.

I was going to try and do this all within three weeks, but in the last couple of days I decided that I don't want to come back until the book is finished. I want to take a little more time than I did on my last big trip. It isn't so much to see the sights, but to write and visit with people. Because I had been looking forward to a no-frills bike trip back on the Shovelhead, I packed much lighter this time. I needed to find a way anyway, since I get so annoyed with lugging the huge black bag around behind me and not having access to my saddlebags while on the road. I bought a small one-person tent, which fits in a bad with my sleeping bag and Thermarest over my headlight. No windshield this trip; just my new ape hangers as a rest for the gear. I have some clothes in one saddlebag, and my computer and various small items in the other bag.

On my last cross-country trip, I prepared for months. On this one, about three days. I learned a few things on my last trip, including that I'm not in the Donner Party. There are stores to buy stuff if I run out or forgot. I headed out yesterday around 3:30. I made it to the end of the driveway and saw a box sitting on the mailboxes. I stopped to get it, and remembered that I hadn't packed my rain gear. I was ready to blow it off, but remembering New Hampshire in the spring (or summer... or fall... or winter...) I went back to get it. Not much room for it, so I decided to ditch the jacket I'd packed on the handlebars knowing that the jacket of a rainsit is excellent at blocking the wind on a cold day.

I made pretty good time yesterday afternoon, stopping right at sunset in Gothenburg, Nebraska. It had been windy, but when I hit North Platte, either the wind died down or the presence of trees lining the roadway made the trip much more pleasant. My new tent went up nicely, and I slept OK. I'm thinking Newton, Iowa for a stop tnoght. We'll see.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Rethinking it all

A comment was made on the blog today. It isn't unlike a few others I've received. In fact, it's very similar to one that an angry "Anonymous" made in the beginning, but it's said in a much more loving tone. Funny how that makes it more acceptable. Part of it irritates me, because it's more of the "you have to love yourself/find happiness within yourself" psychobabble that's been posted a couple of times.

Here's the comment:
I pray you find the peace & knowledge of self that only comes from seeking depth of experience rather than expanding your breadth of experience. And while I enjoy your blog, I hope you find what you are looking for; it won't be in another person unless you find joy & acceptance first with(in) yourself!

I am happy with my life. I do love myself. I love God/Jesus even more. In fact, that's what has made me finally happy with my life. So really, because I get irritated over things sometimes and want to write about it, it doesn't mean I'm miserable. It just means I'm telling a story about dating where I wasn't in total bliss. I suppose if I was a really good Christian, I wouldn't get pissed off, nor would I swear sometimes. But this is who I am. I try to focus on the really important stuff, and the details should fall into place at some point.

That being said, I totally agree that the numbers game is not working for me. After the Joe11/12 weekend, I started questioning if I want to continue. I do because I said I would. I want to complete the project. I just don't see the point in dating people I know I'm not interested in for the sake of crossing another one off the list. The irony of it is that in the midst of all this, I'm meeting single guys and getting to know them on non-dating basis. I like and respect them and have no desire to include any of them as Joes. And perhaps they'd want to date me, but they don't want to be Joes.

I'm done with the online shopping. I don't like bringing these people into my life without any context. So perhaps there will be another 37 dates, but I can't say that it will be this year. On the plus side, because of the push to meet people, I've expanded my horizons. I'm not sure it's all related, but I have more friends now than I've ever had in one place. There are a lot of great people around here, and yes, I'm really happy. I'm enjoying my life, my friends, my fellow riders. And I think it's a lot more fun as a single person than if I was hooked up with someone. Maybe that's it. After 12 Joes I've determined that I'm much more content on my own.

I have a trip coming up. My grandbaby will be born here shortly, and I'm flying back east to meet her. While I'm not certain it will happen, I'm considering purchasing an old POS Shovelhead while I'm there and riding it back. If you've read much of this blog, you probably find that amusing. I know I do. I think it would be a great adventure. My solo cross-country trip on my '01 Softail was the most amazing thing I've ever done. When I got home, I sat on the front porch for an hour before I'd go inside. I knew that I'd never have that same experience, the same first-time thrill. Making the 2,000 mile trip from New Hampshire back to Colorado will be a new experience. A little more daring, for sure. So this blog just might turn into Biker Chick Adventures: a Shovelhead and a Prayer.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

2-Joe Weekend: May 8 and 9, Joes 11 and 12

There's no question I've been slacking on finding Joes. It's like losing weight: I'm all motivated at first, and the pounds fall off. Then it becomes too much of a chore to keep measuring and weighing and adding up the calories. Next thing I know, some other shiny object is much more interesting and takes a higher priority. So it goes with the Joes.

I've had some interaction with a guy on Biker or Not who's from one of the southwestern areas of Denver. After a couple of messages, something must have been mentioned about education or me being a writer, because Joe11 said it was nice to finally meet someone literate on the site. We messaged a few times, the correspondence dropped off, and then when I thought about working near Denver last weekend, I sent him a message to see if he'd like to meet.

He knew about the 50 First Dates project. I could be wrong, but I felt like he'd read the entries and acted accordingly. I appreciated that he said where he'd like to go, but knowing that he might have done that only because he read my blog made me wonder if that's what he normally would have done. However, communication in a relationship is vital, and if one person has stated that something is important to them, and the other person acts on that, it's good.

Work was challenging, and I had to wait until about 4:00 to let Joe11 know when I'd be ready to go. I appreciate the flexibility. I'd messaged him and asked him to meet me in the parking lot next to the lot I was teaching in, which would have the cars of the students in it. I was glad that I got done a few minutes earlier than I expected so I could go into the building and freshen up a little and put on a clean shirt (lesson learned from Joe6). I realized that all the cars in the parking lot would be gone at that point, and I thought about texting Joe11 and telling him to keep following the road down to the back of the building. As soon as I exited the building, I heard a Harley approaching, and sure enough, he'd figured it out - or he'd just kept going because he was trying to find the parking lot with the cars in it. Either way, he was there.

I was a little self-conscious about my bike because it was dirty. I've had a hard time keeping it clean with all this stupid wind. If I wet my bike down in my yard, it gets covered with dirt immediately, making the bike dirtier than it was when I started. Because I have a tendency to stay busy right up until the time I need to change activities, I haven't washed it recently. I do this with quilting too. I cut and sew right up until the time I'm ready to drop at night, and I end up with fabric everywhere. A sewing room would be nice, but that's another story.

I glanced at Joe11's bike and identified it as an Electra Glide Standard based on the non-chrome rocker box covers. Upon closer inspection, I saw that he had really nice jugs. Thinking about my friend Josh and his recent rebuild that included powder coated heads and cylinders with the fins cut to sparkle, I thought Joe11 had done that. I asked, and he said that was stock. I quickly noticed that his valve covers were chrome, but they were covered up with some road grime. I suddenly felt better about my less-than-shiny motorcycle.

We went to an Italian restaurant on Sheridan, down around 75th Street. It was a nice place, and we shared a white pizza. Yum. The conversation flowed easily, and I enjoyed myself. After dinner, Joe11 escorted me back to the north side, even though he was heading back south. I wouldn't have thought less of him had he headed home from dinner. It was a very nice touch that he rode back with me.

I enjoyed the date and think Joe11 is a good guy, but I have to say there wasn't a huge attraction. He must have felt the same way, since once I got home and went back on Biker or Not, I noticed we weren't friends anymore. LOL I'm sorry he felt the need to "unfriend" me. It makes me wonder if I was that awful to be around that he wanted to make sure there was no more contact, or if once that possible love interest is crossed off the list, there's no reason to remain friends. Either way, I'm fine with it.

Joe11 brings up an issue I've faced with dating and love for a long time. I was raised in an affluent community and went to private schools for a while. Because of all kinds of drama and other complications, I wanted nothing to do with that lifestyle and went to the dark side. I turned against my family's values, including education. Eventually, after living through some crazy shit with both of my former Panhead-riding husbands, I decided that sobriety and education weren't necessarily bad things. I quit drinking, started hanging out with more sane people, and earned both Bachelor's and Master's degrees. Now I'm stranded in no-man's land. I'm a highly educated, sober Christian with a wild side, and I'm not enamored with the mild-mannered. Yeah, I'm still into the bad boys, but intelligent (no college required), funny, and thoughtful bad boys. Argh!!! It's never easy.

As for Joe12... the encounter was much shorter. Another Biker or Not member, I mentioned I'd be in the Denver area for the weekend and suggested we meet for a cup of coffee or something after work on Sunday. I had to run up north to meet with someone on ABATE issues, so I didn't want to take too much time on this one. I suppose I didn't have high expectations to begin with, and I feel a little guilty that I saw this as simply crossing another Joe off the list. However, I have been surprised in the past, so there was always that possibility.

Again, it was difficult to say when I'd be done with work. I was expecting 5:30. Joe12 and I texted and I eventually called him when I was on a break. He was nearing my location and said he'd call when he got there. I was able to take the call at that time, but I wasn't completely through with work. Because my presence wasn't required for a few minutes, I told him I'd meet him out front, but that I wouldn't be able to stay long. It was actually a good setup, as we could meet and chat for a bit and then either give the "Hey, it was nice meeting you. I'll see you around some time," speech or make plans for a little later in the afternoon. It was the former.

Because the building was locked up in a lot of areas, I didn't make it out the exit I expected. I walked toward him from a distance and saw that he'd decided to park his bike on the pristine white sidewalk in front of the library. As I approached, he was looking at his bike, polishing a spot, then stepping back to look for more specks of dirt. This happened a few times. I found the whole thing to be a joke considering his Shovelhead was leaking on the sidewalk. Yep, that's right. Shovelhead. Granted it was a generator Shovelhead, one of those treasured years between '66 and '69, but it was still a Shovelhead leaking on the sidewalk of the place where I work.

Even though I'm not into white fringed seats, I'll concede that it's definitely a bike worth being proud of. However, I felt it was a total lack of respect and an overload of ego that made him think it was OK to park the bike on the sidewalk directly in front of the library at the school where I work. In fact, I'll never make the mistake of inviting someone to meet me there again. We often have bikers rolling up to take a look at what we're doing, and I didn't feel that meeting someone who rolled up would be much different. If you want to park on the sidewalk in front of a bar or a store or some place that's totally unrelated to me, I don't give a rat's ass. I'll park there too. But if you can't show me enough respect to use the parking lot where I work, then I don't care who you are, I'm done.

At any rate, I imagine my attitude of "who the f&ck do you think you are" probably came through in some way or another, the conversation was short, and no plans were made for later in the day.

Lessons learned:

1. If I'm going to use the convenience of working in Denver on the weekends to meet people, I need to set a time that I'll definitely be done by, and meet the guy somewhere else. If 6:30 or so isn't going to work for either of us, then it won't happen that weekend.

2. While a nice clean shirt in the saddlebag was a good call, I could have done without the cute shoes. Unless I'm going to be somewhere for a few hours, there's no reason I'd pull off my boots and socks to put on the open-toes heels. An extra thong per day would have been a far better use of saddlebag space.