Montana, Wyoming, & Utah

DEET, Feet and Karma


Before I begin, I’d to give Terry full credit for the first 2/3 of this entries title.  (The “Karma” once again came into play on our way to Logan, Utah.  More on that one later.) After spending some quality time with my boys holed up in one tent while the sky opened up with HUGE drops of condensation and a 4th of July light show, we’ve come to the conclusion that we smell, A LOT.  Jack won’t let us forget that little fun fact…dig that kid.  Between the layers of DEET we had to envelope ourselves in PLUS 3 days without a shower PLUS the stench of riding gear…yep, we be icky.  Not to worry, though, as there is one thing that becomes most valuable when in such a state – public restrooms.  Yes, we’re those people whom you might find washing our faces in the marble encased restroom of that 5 star lodge along Jackson Lake.  And we are those people you may find stuffed into a corner around the only available plugs charging our electronics and attempting a Skype call with Good Day Sacramento, attempting being the operative word.  I even went the extra mile and put on makeup!  Hey, I may camp for days and ride a motorcycle, but that gives me no reason to look like ass.  Needless to say, the Skype call never went through even after the myriad of failed attempts and calls with the producer.  They weren’t too thrilled with us.  Sorry, but I have yet to find that fairy godmother.  No worries as we’ll be hitting those guns/knives/beef jerky/fireworks/fur stores in Idaho tomorrow.  Again, my chances of finding her are good.  Poor Jack was quite disappointed at our failed attempts.  Not to worry, little man.  It’ll happen.  And now, on with the show…

Leaving Bozeman Bill’s abode was hard as it was quite a beautiful, contemporary pad.  Again, very thankful.  After leaving him with a bottle of wine and thank you card, we headed south to Wyoming to meet up with our friends, Ara and Spirit.  Spirit is Ara’s dog that rides along in his own sidecar complete with doggles and helmet.  Not kidding!  We met them earlier this year at Overland Expo in Amado, Arizona.  Ara was, and continues to be, a renowned chef and culinary expert having cooked for the rich and famous for many, many years.  He and his canine companion, Spirit, have been on the road for 5 years.  I will not expand on his story as I believe that it is not mine to tell.  If you’d like to find out more about Ara and Spirit, you can check out their journal at www.theoasisofmysoul.com.  I promise, it’s a good read.  Have I ever steered you wrong?  Anywho, Ara invited us to camp with him along the river outside the south entrance of Yellowstone National Park.  But getting to the park was going to be a feat in and of itself.  You see, after so much time attempting to avoid such touristy areas, we were now thrusting ourselves head first into the deep end.  All was going well until we had to stop for lunch in one of the Reno-esque traps.  I couldn’t even give this one a Vegas rating.  I spotted what looked to be the only outside patio diner without a busload of people.  After parking and getting a brief dose of this new reality, I discovered that my “find” was closed, as were ALL the outdoor restaurants.  Huh?  And the only thing open?  Dairy Queen.  Bleech.  We did attempt to stand in line and order the No. 1 Fried Greaste with a Side of Grease, but just couldn’t.  After watching the masses line up like cattle behind us, Terry and I looked at each other and exclaimed, “We’re outta here!”  And Jack?  Totally on board.  The kid honestly doesn’t like fast food.  Ah, my plan is working…  Terry remembered a grocery store sign just around the corner so off we rolled.  There was no deli to be found, so we picked up a loaf of bread, some cheese and lunch meat and planted our smelly bums on a pallet outside the store.  I swear we were quite a sight!  Terry said we should’ve put out a cup for change.  No matter as we were MUCH happier eating our simple, homeless meal than weighing ourselves down with a pre-made, pre-heated food like substance.  Sure, we got some looks as people really don’t know how to react.  No worries, though.  We don’t mind.  And Mr. J?  He digs the way we roll.  Gotta love that kid.  Should’ve had him play guitar and given him a tip jar.  College money!

Back on the bikes and rolling through Yellowstone, we had to remind ourselves that it was summer break.  Actually, the parade of rented RV’s and tour buses did that job for us.  Please don’t get me wrong here!  I LOVE that families are getting out of the house and spending time together.  That’s the message we’re out here to promote.  I just wish y’all would take the time to learn how to drive such a tank before you roll out of the driveway.  It’s a simple request and would be greatly appreciated.  As the masses slammed on the brakes to take a picture of an elk or squirrel or whatever thing popped its head out of a hole, we rolled past only to be part of nature’s parade.  Lo and behold, we found ourselves rolling alongside 3 HUGE buffalo as they made their way across the highway.  No joke!  The ranger was there with her lights flashing and made sure to yell to Terry, “Now, you be careful!”  No problem there, sista!  Fortunately for us, the motorhome in the oncoming lane had stopped allowing us to SLOWLY roll past the massive beasts.  Dude, if you have never seen a buffalo up close, I highly recommend doing so when you have some distance between you…and a fence…an electric fence.  After Terry edged by, it was my turn.  But wait!  They’re NOW deciding to break left, salami cutting towards me and the hillside on my left.  Slow, Sandy, slow…  No blips on the throttle, barely even gas, and I narrowly made my way past them.  I swear we were eye to eye for a good 50 feet.  Now that it’s over, I can see that was one of the most awesomely terrifying experiences yet on 2 wheels.  Such irony in that they’re to be protected and revered yet they’re so tasty when grilled.  Huh.

After what seemed like several lifetimes just to get through the park (SQUIRREL!), we made our way down a gravel trail to find our friends Ara and Spirit ready for our arrival.  Well, at least Ara was ready.  Poor Spirit was not very happy to be on a leash as well as not used to having people camp with him.  Ara informed us that in all of his 5 years of travel, he’s never had anyone camp with him…never!  We felt quite honored to be the first.  And we understand, Spirit.  Jack wanted nothing more than to get in a little dog time. After some time and a walk, Jack and Spirit would find themselves to be friends.  Ara greeted all of us with a huge hug and smile, grateful to have some company to share his latest experiences.  Never at a loss for words or an ear for listening, we all swapped stories of travel and life, taking in what the other had to say like it was the last drop of water on earth.  Without betraying the experience, just know that all of us share a common belief in our faith in humanity as well as how blessed we are to have family, related or not.  Ara was more than willing to hang with Jack and hear what he had to say.  He also helped remind us that Jack is a special kid and very fortunate to be part of such a great adventure.  The older Jack gets, the more he understands that.

We found ourselves in survivor mode as we hunted for firewood while sporting the latest in mosquito headwear.  Donning our netted hats was the evenings (and soon to be mornings) attire.  And DEET was to be the scent of choice while camped alongside the river in the middle of Wyoming.  When you find yourself in a swarm of tiny blood-thirsty vampires, science wins.  The earth friendly, lemon-eucalyptus spray acted as more of a marinade than anything else.  Terry and Jack STILL came out looking like a dot-to-dot puzzle.  Those little buggers work quickly.  As always when hanging with Ara, food and conversation go hand in hand.  We swapped cooking techniques and recipe ideas, he so proud of himself when I couldn’t identify the powdery mystery spice.  And I’m not going to let you in on it as you have to taste it to believe it.  And after almost choking on the sad little balsamic I could fit in my kitchen, he promised to send me a link to some true travelers vinegar.

A restful night turned into a 9AM ride to Jenny Lake and the Tetons.  As we rolled, we got a little taste of how Ara and Spirit are greeted by the public.  It’s not often you see a dog riding in a sidecar with doggles and a tiny helmet.  But that certainly is not an invitation for you to request that you ‘please have your dog turn to me so I can take a picture’.  Can you even fathom how rude that is?  Seriously?  His travels are not yours to manipulate so you can have that cool picture to show all your friends when you get home.  Terry even had to step in and answer questions directed at Ara from yet another rude individual when he insisted on interrupting the boys during a private conversation.  I urge all to think before you act next time, not just for our friend but for anyone who is obviously enjoying some down time with another individual.  But I digress.  Our final down spot for the morning was along a dirt road that skirted the bottom of the Tetons.  Stunning.  It gave all of us time to sit and take it in as well as Spirit time to run and roll around on his back.  After a take-out lunch from the Jackson Lodge that was eaten on the front lawn instead of the crowded diner, we rolled back to camp to once again be greeted by our blood loving welcoming committee.  But what about that evening sky?  Looks a tad ominous, doesn’t it?  Hmmm…  Yep, thunderstorms were bearing down on us and we had just enough time to pack it all in.  And I mean BARELY enough time.  Ara and I threw the last of the bags into our respective tents as the drops came barreling down.  Just then, Terry and Jack rolled in from their fishing attempt.  No fish, no problem.  Get in the tent!  It was the 4th of July and mother nature took it upon herself to give us a lightning show like no other we’d seen.  Jack…not a fan!  No worries, buddy, we’ll be just fine.  We all finally drifted off to sleep as the sky continued its dance of light and sound.

It’s always bittersweet when having to part ways with a friend.  Ara insisted that we visit him at his oasis while we offered our home for any future visits.  It’s what you do when you meet a new member of your family.  And that’s what it’s about, isn’t it?  With strong hugs and handshakes, we parted ways.  Not for too long, our friend.

The town of Jackson was our destination for 2 nights of R&R only our version of R&R was laundry, showers and a pool.  Even while hoteling it, I cook most of our meals as restaurants in touristy towns tend to be overpriced and slim on healthy choices.  The Alberson’s in town was just the ticket for fresh seafood and veggies.  But the real hero of the night was a lady name Jean who selflessly gave me her phone number to use for the store discounts.  Had she not, that wild salmon would’ve been an extra $5 a pound.  The “Faith in Humanity” tour continues to be a roaring success.  Cheers to Jean!  Amazing what can happen when you strike up a conversation with a local, isn’t it?  Stellular.

When I returned laundry duty, I presented Terry with a brochure on local airplane rides.  We had been saving up to surprise Jack with a plane ride on his birthday.  Why not do it early in a place that has WAY more scenery that stomping grounds?  When Terry let him in on our plans for the next day, Jack just beamed, grinning a grin only the Cheshire Cat could match.  Terry made sure that Jack was going to be able to take right seat with the possibility of steering a time or two.  No problem said the pilot.  So, the next day we were off to Driggs, Idaho to meet the pilot, Lisa, and her Cessna.  I wanted to stay on the ground to take pics and also wanted Terry and Jack to have a cool father/son moment.  After all it was originally Terry’s idea in the first place.  As they taxied by, Jack waved the giant wave that only an elated 9 year old can pull off.  Off they climbed into the atmosphere, dotted with pure white clouds and minimal breeze.  It was pretty cool to watch.  Jack lives and breathes for flying and he was finally getting his first taste of his future.  Looks like we need to save up for lessons and Jack needs to get a J-O-B.  Once back on the ground, a cool Jack chatted it up like he’d been flying for years.  The kid was unfazed with any of the turbulence and ready for more.  Yep, a J-O-B for Jack.  Sounds like the kid needs to get himself that tip cup.

Back in Jackson, a dinner of salmon and veggies cooked while the boys hung by the pool.  Seems Jack was making a friend with a cute little 12-year-old girl.  Remember those times, making friends with other kids during your travels with parents?  I sure do!  They were cool.  And remember writing hand-written letters (Gasp!) back and forth?  We’ll see if they stay in touch.  The next morning brought a grumpy cloud over the scene as we contemplated our route.  Trying to avoid Nevada is tricky when trying to return to California with a time schedule.  But being summertime, it’s necessary!  The heat is unbearable and even worse for little man.  Not fair to expect a kid to ride cupcake 6 hours in miserable heat.  We eventually decided to go the Idaho route ending up in Logan, Utah for one night and Boise, Idaho for hopefully 2 nights.  Terry has an old friend that he’s known since preschool that we wanted to visit with who lives just outside of Boise.  Gabe and his wife, Amber, have two cute little squirts and offered to let us stay in their guest room.  Wait, a toddler and a baby?  Thanks for the offer, kids, but we’ve done those stages!  Time for a quiet hotel room.  With bikes packed and just under 300 to cover, we set the GPS for west and rolled out just after 10AM.  The skies had cleared and the rush of the holiday weekend was over.

The ride along Highway 89 from Jackson is another visually stunning route.  It skirts along the Snake River, which was full beyond capacity making it impossible to swim.  One foot in that rushing water and you would’ve had to change your name to Buoy.  Even the fisherman were having a tough time keeping their lines from getting tangled.  We stopped in a small town along the way to have our usual quick inexpensive lunch – Subway.  After slamming the sandwich down, we stepped outside to notice that the skies were once again building up steam for yet another light and sound show.  This did NOT please Jack in the least.  It was already humid and we were going to have to layer up with rain liners for the rest of the journey.  Well, those of us who have rain liners.  We held out as long as possible before having to gear up.  Now, I know what the road is going to do as I tend to study to memorize the route before each take-off.  But when you’re headed straight for impending doom, you start to doubt your memorization skills.  Remember that picture I posted from our camping trip in Wyoming?  You get the picture.  With fingers crossed for that right turn, we FINALLY made the turn away from satan’s fury.  All it takes is for Jack to spot a bolt of lightning and the ride turns ugly.  Crossing into Utah, we found ourselves unable to avoid the rain.  As a steady stream of precip showered upon us, my boots slowly filled with water.  Awesome.  Should’ve used some of that duct tape!

Now, here’s the karma story.  The last 40 miles heading into Logan is purely nature at its most glorious; a two-lane highway that rolls along with the canyon, a steady stream of water rolling along with you.  A thin mist hung over the stream like a creamy frosting, never veering from its watery course.  I so wanted to find a safe spot to pull over for a picture, but a white Utah-plated Subaru sucked all the enthusiasm right outta me.  Seems the person behind me wanted nothing more than to pass us at the expense of everyone on the road.  Have we not covered this topic before?  I thought so!  You know I’m going to pull over for you, but you have to give me a chance to find a safe spot for EVERYONE, not just you.  Unwilling to wait for safety’s sake, this driver pulled out over a double-yellow line ON A BLIND LEFT TURN AROUND A BOULDER!  WHAT?!?  I veered right and stuck my hand out as if to say, “Are you KIDDING me?”  I stood up on the pegs and gave her the nastiest of looks, piercing her with my laser vision.  She crept back into her lane and backed off the gas.  When Terry spotted a safe location, we pulled right, ADV salutes all around.  Idiot.  Off she sped, not even looking our way.  What, you’re going to be a bully but run when you get called out?  I hoped she learned her lesson.  She didn’t.  Okay, another bit of advice for new moto riders who are uneasy riding in the rain…PULL OVER!  We now found ourselves in a line of cars 20 deep behind two newby Harley riders REFUSING to pull over and let everyone go.  In this situation, it’s not about speed as much as safety.  When you don’t pull over, you are now putting others in harms way as drivers get ansy, lose patience and begin to boil over.  Oh ya, and they tend to start lumping all motorcycle riders in the same category as you.  We’re not and it’s not cool.  More than once, cars in front and behind almost collided as their focus had now turned to the bikes leading the pack and how to get around them.  When the dude in the Chrysler behind me began to lose patience, I had to stand on the pegs and stomp on the rear brake to wake him up.  As always, I had my exit plan.  The whole point of doing these wake-up calls is to either – 1.  Get the driver so embarrassed for driving like such a dink that they lay off your back tire OR 2.  Get the passengers in the car so angry at the driver for being such a dink that to avoid more tongue lashing from said passengers, they lay off the gas until further notice.  I accomplished the latter of the two.  It was quite a sight to see in my side mirrors.  Mission complete.  Now, about those 2 bikes leading the pack…  The lady in the white car was two back from the bikes and decided to take it upon herself to pass YET AGAIN OVER A DOUBLE-YELLOW IN A BLIND LEFT HAND TURN!  Terry and I were on the radio to each other yelling, “SHE’S PASSING!  I CAN’T BELIEVE SHE’S PASSING!”  Sure enough as Terry and slowed down, standing on the pegs to watch the show, this idiot stomps on the gas, narrowly misses the car in front of her and the bikes, and SLAMS fender first right into the concrete rail.  “SHE WRECKED! SHE WRECKED! SHE TOTALLY ATE IT!” I yelled into the radio.  All traffic came to a stop, most cars pulling over to check out the scene.  As we slowly rolled upon the wreck, this woman comes barrelling out of the driver’s side completely dazed as to what she just caused.  But here’s the kicker, folks…HER TWO TEENAGE KIDS WERE IN THE CAR WITH HER!  Yes, ladies and gentleman, not ONLY did she endanger the lives of the people on both sides of the road but SHE ENDANGERED THE LIVES OF HER OWN CHILDREN!  I was ENRAGED!  Seeing that the kids were okay (I could give two hoots about the driver, honestly), we slowly rolled past the scene knowing that if we had stopped, we would’ve taken the driver out.  There were enough people stopped, including the 2 Harley’s, that would make sure and let her know how much she put everyone else in harms way.  The scene was becoming one of rage and we didn’t need to be a part of it.  Bad juju, kids, bad juju.

So for those of you keeping score, that’s 2 for 2.  All the people we have let pass us on the highway have been the cause of accidents that didn’t need to occur, all because of impatience.  Remember, that extra 5 minutes is NOT worth the price of admission.  Do I really have to keep going over this?  Have we not learned our karma lesson?  It doesn’t buy you a pass to create unsafe situations just to fit your needs.  Because I feel the need to review, your challenge today will be one of self-evaluation.  In daily life, do you find yourself more or less optimistic than a year ago?  Do you feel that you’re owed something OR that it’s up to you to choose your direction in life?  None of us are owed anything, NONE OF US!  We have become such a society of “Need it”, “Deserve it” and “I’m owed something”.  The only things we truly need/deserve/are owed are food, shelter and a loving support system.  Trust me, I totally understand the love for a new pair of shoes.  But if that’s all that makes you glow, it’s time to reevaluate your situation.  Success in life does not come to those who wait for someone else to create it for them.  I know far too many people who are waiting for that magic pill to make them wealthy, happy, skinny, whatever it is that you may seek.  And isn’t that a waste of time?  Live a life with few or no regrets.  You don’t want to find yourself at 65 saying, “I wish I would’ve done more with my life.”  Not in a situation to do so at this time?  Then take it slow.  Just like with anything else, true change takes time.  Remember… patience.  And with patience and change come the understanding of karma, giving as well as receiving.  Don’t understand it yet?  You will, but you have to want it.  Cheers.

Stellular – Sometimes It’s The Only Word

Many lives ago, I worked for a small PR firm back in the hood.  A friend and I could not come up with the proper descriptor for an article we were doing, so we made up our own – stellular.  It’s what works when you’ve exhausted all other possibilities within your thesaurus.  It’s what you go to when mere “excellent” and “awesome” will not work.  You’re free to use it, just please give credit where it is due.  The adventures from this past week have far exceeded any image I could have conjured up.  You go into these ventures with somewhat of a blueprint image in your mind but quickly decide to throw it right out.  This is why we never totally plan out our trip.  We know our first night, maybe the last night, but never know what’s going to happen in between.  You can’t create a good time, it just happens.  Nor can you recreate a previous experience.  That would be silly now, wouldn’t it?  Would you really like it to be “Groundhog Day” every day?  I didn’t think so.  And that’s how our journey has been as it truly has far exceeded any of our expectations.  Now, on with the show…

Before leaving Whistler, we knew we had to find a way to get a shot of our bikes in front of the Olympic rings in Olympic Square before we left.  And we did.  At 7AM, when all were hung or with the kiddos, Terry and I quietly rolled our bikes into the square, took several shots, and quietly rolled them out.  Nary a warm body strolled past; no one even batted an eye.  Stellular.

As we rolled along Highway 99 toward Kamloops, we really had no idea what kind of ride and scenery we were going to encounter.  It was after that that Terry told me it was ranked as one of the top three motorcycle roads in North America.  And man, he ain’t lyin’!  With every roll out of a turn came a scene so immense, so awesome that it was all we could do to not stop every several minutes to take it all in.  Sometimes it’s about the whole ride experience, not just what you capture on film.  Many pictures are meant only for your mind and cannot be shared.  You must go experience it yourself.  One thing we did have to be present for was the mass amount of gravel that was splayed on the roads.  I think they hire somebody to put it there just to keep all of us from running off the cliffs.  And being two heavily weighted bikes, we took our time and didn’t rush the moment.  Not a bad thing, really.

After a mediocre lunch of wrong orders and a chicken jerky sandwich, we decided to land for the night in Kamloops, our heads still reeling from the day’s ride.  We weren’t going to forget that one any time soon.  We stopped at the visitor’s center in Kamloops to pick up camping information.  Jack was eager to get in some more tent time and we were as well.  It’s easier to rehash the day’s events over a campfire than a cramped hotel room.  Do you have a campground near by?  Yes, just one.  The others are about 20 minutes away.  Fine.  We’ll try the local grounds.  And by local I mean ‘locals’!  Let’s just say it was yet another reality lesson for Jack – when people are LIVING in the campground, there’s a ‘For Sale’ sign outside SELLING campsites and several dudes in a barely-running car pull out of the driveway, you kind of get the feeling that the hotel room wouldn’t be so bad.  Poor kid.  There were several tears as today was not the day he wanted to learn yet another lesson.  So, to the Holiday Inn Express we go!  Pool?  Yes.  Laundry?  Not so much.  Boo.  Oh well, it’s off to Safeway to get fixins’ for dinner.  Yes, Jet Boil cooking in the room with the windows open.  Why?  We just can’t do another bad, overpriced restaurant meal.  Tonight’s menu?  Beef fillets, sautéed greens and potatoes.  Ta da!  Now THAT’S Jet Boil cookin’.

Our boy, Zak, at the hotel in Whistler advised us against staying in Banff.  “More touristy than Whistler and not as beautiful as Lake Louise”, he said.  Not a problem here!  We took his word for it as were quickly tiring of the larger towns, tour buses and throngs of souvenir seeking tourists.  Ugh.  We set sail heading east with Alberta on the brain.  The closer we got to the border, the faster the cars and trucks were going.  Want to pass us?  No problem.  There was one truck in particular that was going rather fast.  I radioed Terry to pull to the right and let him go.  Whew!  Glad to have him off my taillight.  About an hour or so later, we were met with a traffic jam.  Some sort of accident.  We were just hoping that no one was hurt.  It had stopped raining for the moment, so it was a good time to gear up for the cold, grab something to drink and hang out with the other motorists while we waited it out.  We did meet a nice family from Oregon.  Well, we met a nice husband and kids.  The wife?  Not so much.  But how nice can you be when you’re wearing 3/4 length khakis and a sensible ‘do.  Whatever.  It took a good 45 minutes before the traffic began to creep forward.  Fortunately we were surrounded by all that nature had to offer.   We really weren’t complaining.  Slowly we crept, practicing our low speed riding.  It took quite a while to get to the scene of the accident.  Have you guessed by now who might have been involved?  Uh huh, the truck we had let pass just a little while previous.  A mangled mess of metal and engine blood was strewn about the highway.  Lesson learned, kids?  Nothing is worth the price of admission in this life.  Going to be 5 minutes late?  Not worth it.  Gotta get there before that traffic really piles up?  Nope, not that either.  Think about this the next time you just HAVE to get somewhere.

Rolling through Glacier National Park is an experience unlike any other we’ve had.  Only one other time have I ever felt so puny, so in awe, so insignificant.  Massive spikes of glacier cut rock shot into the sky with such force.  Snowmelt streams of Tiffany-blue graced the valley floor, dancing along in nature’s symbiotic rhythm.  It was all we could do to not run off the road.  Heavy sigh…  Again, we’ve been reminded that nature is in charge.  Stellular.

Did I happen to mention that the rain showers hadn’t stopped for most of our trip?  Did I also mention that we planned on camping at Lake Louise for 2 nights?  I didn’t?  Well, now you can imagine just how damp we were going to get or continue to be.  Zak was correct in his explanation of the region.  How often do you get the chance to camp along the base of the Canadian Rocky Mountains?  Not often enough, I’m sure.  Between rain showers, we walked the camping grounds, making sure not to touch the electric fence or step on the electrified cattle guard.  What?  Yep!  Have to keep the wildlife out somehow.  Honestly, it was more of a Darwin test.  We were warned upon entrance not to put our feet down on the yellow guard.  Not a problem, sir!  Though the camping was certainly wet, we made the best of it.  Raining?  Stand like a horse underneath a tree.  We called those our equine moments.  Can’t get the wet wood to light?  Break off some of the sap balls from the trees and you have instant fuel.  Not kidding.  Try it sometime.  We now have a Ziploc full of them for those ‘just in case’ times.  We did meet a lovely German couple that were currently living in Chicago.  Hey, we rode there last year!  Cristina stood in awe of how we packed our bikes and carried so much gear.  Why thank you, Cristina.  It’s been years in the making.  I also met 2 Brazilian moto dudes who were making the trek from South America to Alaska and back home.  Between their broken English and my broken Spanish, we’re either married or they’re going to stay a night with us when they roll through the Sacramento area.  I’m hoping for the latter.  Very cool guys.

After 2 damp days and several pieces of wet gear later, we did decide to roll through Banff on our way back to British Colombia.  And Zak was right about Banff as well.  Buses, tourists, sensible clothing, shopping.  Ta da!  You’ve now had the dime tour.   Okay, we did get the chance to dump some photos at Starbucks and meet some very nice guys from Ontario.  They, too, are hoping to stop by the Borden Abode on their way south.  No chance of marriage this time.  A quick stop for a sticker and away we rode through the Canadian Rockies.  Did I mention that the Alberta drivers were a tad scary on the road?  Did I also mention that it was a 3-day weekend to Celebrate Canada Day?  Okay, don’t tell my dad, but as we were rolling through the Rockies, totally diggin’ the scenery, I was run off the road by the driver behind me.  Did I also mention that it was fuh-reezing and raining?  So this guy is tailing me and anyone who rides knows to always keep your head in your mirror and ALWAYS have a bailout spot.  I was doing both, KNOWING this guy was going to pull out at any second.  But wait, there’s a car coming towards us as well.  Surely he wasn’t going to try and pass NOW.  I was wrong.  I put my hand out to him to STOP, pointing at the other car but alas; he took off anyway, forcing me onto the shoulder.  Thankfully, Alberta planned for just such an occasion and had very large shoulders along the route.  Let’s just say he got the ADV sign all around.  Terry was ready to hunt him down.  And the dude had HIS whole family in the car!  He just waved and gave a stupid smile.  I was fuming!  But what were we going to do?  Chalk it up and keep rolling forward.

We stopped for the night at Fairmont Hot Springs Hotel, right along the BC side of the Rockies.  We spent the evening soaking our weary bodies in the natural spring pools, even meeting people from Calistoga and Santa Rosa, my old stomping grounds.  The world continues to get smaller.  The next day was Canada Day (Eh?) and I didn’t have a Terrence and Phillip shirt to wear!  Next time.  And did I mention that there was a triathlon going on outside our room?  This was really cutting into my sleeping in time.  Oh well, on with the packing.

Whitefish, Montana was the next stop on the tour.  In all of our days touring Canada, there has not been a bad road.  Even the road to the border was no exception.  Again, we skirted the Rockies, even better this time as the weather had cleared up.  It’s a good day when you don’t have to layer up like the kid on ‘A Christmas Carol’ because it’s an even uglier sight when one of us falls.  At the border crossing into Montana, we were met with quite a long line of cars, motorcycles and motorhomes.  REALLY hoping this wasn’t going to take too long.  All 3 of us needed to gear down but didn’t want to do so until we hit American soil.  Fortunately, it didn’t take too long.  And at the border, we didn’t even have to take off our helmets!  Dude, we could’ve smuggled in a whole army of Canadians, drugs and nuclear weapons without a hitch!  No wonder our country is in such a state.  Geared down and watered up, we rolled into Whitefish looking for a spot to camp.  It was time to air out our camping gear, musty smells and all.  At the edge of town was a national park camping area with a FULL sign neatly displayed.  In the world of full campgrounds, the worst they can say is no…but there’s always a way in.  We rolled up and asked the very nice woman if there were any cancellations.  No, but there’s a woman who has a house for sale and lovely grounds that is offering to house all the overflow campers for the weekend.  How nice is that?  We parked off to the side near the sign that announced that there’s always room for hikers and bikers.  Wait a minute.  That’s right!  They ALWAYS have campsites for them!  And we don’t take up much room, do we?  I walked back to ask about the site and low and behold, she and her partner, Ron, had just discussed us staying in that section.  Brilliant!  After a tour of the site in Ron’s golf cart, I gave Terry and Jack a thumbs up and we moved in for the night.  We were camped next to a young cycling couple from Bozeman who were quite pleasant.  Gotta love camping.  You’re vulnerable, leaving yourself open to conversation and meeting cool people.  I was off to town for some cooking supplies while the boys set up camp.  Whitefish, as it turns out, is Montana’s answer to Sonoma.  Beautiful, small town filled with Range Rovers, Louis Vuitton and small dogs.  Boo.  Oh well.  We had our little spot by the lake and a homemade fishing pole for Jack.  Terry had tied up the hook and weight onto a long stick then I fashioned a cork on the line for a bobber.  Huck Finn had nothing on the Borden’s.  At the dock we met a grandfather who was entertaining his grandsons from Boise.  The boys had quickly tired of fishing, so Norm (NORM!) offered up a pole to Jack.  Thanks, Norm!  We slept like babies that night with the exception of the train that rolled past our heads at 4AM.  At least it didn’t wake up Jack.  It’s now confirmed that Jack can sleep through anything.

The next morning we awoke early to get on the road.  It was going to be a long day (350 miles) and we needed to get an early start. As we were packing the bikes, our tent neighbor, Bill, wandered over to check out the scene.  He had a bike like mine for several years but sold it, as he never had the chance to ride.  He was a cyclist and bike mechanic, but didn’t have enough time to spend on the moto.  Bill was a really cool dude.  As I finished up, Terry asked Bill and his girlfriend, Amy, about the best way to get to Bozeman.  They were full of good info, thankfully.  A little bit later, Bill asked us where we were going to stay?  Not sure yet, but there’s always a Best Western or Holiday Inn Express to be found.  Would you guys like to stay at my place instead?  Excuse me?!?  Bill, did you just offer up your house to us?  Yes, he did.  There was a guest room, washer and dryer, and a garage full of tools if we needed them.  Wow.  Terry was stunned, I was giddy and Jack was eager to get a full nights rest.  Why yes, Bill, we’d love to stay at your home.  Stellular.

And that’s where we are at the moment, preparing to depart and head toward Yellowstone in Wyoming to meet up with Ara and Spirit.  Bill’s home is a contemporary masterpiece.  Just my style.  The facilities far exceeded anything a hotel had to offer.  He will forever be remembered as Bozeman Bill.  Paying it forward is quite a concept.  Karma does exist.  When you receive an unexpected gift from a stranger, sometimes you don’t know how to react.  But you should know how to return the karma.  If you see someone in need, offer up a solution.  If you know you can help a situation, step in and offer guidance.  It really is simple but it does require you to step out of that comfort zone we’ve been talking about this whole trip.  And that, my friends, is your challenge for the day.  Pay it forward to a friend, a stranger, whomever you see in need of a solution.  Because of Bill, we had a free place to stay complete with laundry and showers and cold beer in the fridge.  (Terry’s out picking up replacements as we speak.)  And because of his generous offer, we’ve once again expanded the circle of friends we’ve made along our travels.  You never know who you’re going to meet and how they can help you along the way.  Pretty amazing, isn’t it?  No, it’s stellular.  Cheers.

Education Through Travel

I’ve really been grappling with how to write this next entry.  It’s taken me until Monday morning, 4 days later, to sit down and figure out what I want to write and how to write it.  I wasn’t sure why until Terry and I sat down and talked last night.  You see, we spent some quality time with an awesomely cool motorcycle travel family on Vancouver Island.  They have 2 wonderful pre-teen sons (Tanner and Quinton) who spent a lot of time with Jack.  Terry and I spent many, many hours talking about life and the world with Henry and Renee, dad and mom respectively.  They’ve travelled deep into Mexico as well as to the Arctic, all on motorcycles, all with the boys on the back of the bikes.  They’ve seen and encountered situations that the news networks are too frightened to air or publish.  I’m afraid the stories might be too ‘real’, the situations too honest where someone may have to actually pay attention and DO something about them.  And I think I figured out why it’s been so difficult for me to write about it.  Our time with them was special, too special to give away all the details.  You know those times that are so true and pure that you’re not sure how to put them into words?  Maybe if feels like betrayal to the group if you give away all the in-depth conversations and experiences?  That’s where I’m at now.  So today, kids, will be a slightly watered down version of our time on Vancouver Island.  Those of you who know me know that this is unlike my personality.  Those of you who REALLY know me will shrug your shoulders and think, “She gets it.”  On with the show…

When we pulled in their driveway, little did we all know that it was the meeting of two families who felt stuck between two worlds – the have to and the want to.  For us, we’re stuck in the suburbia swirl of work/school/rinse/repeat.  There has been a surge in divorces and cheating scandals in our hood like you wouldn’t believe!  So much pretending as one would not want to appear less than perfect. Henry and Renee are stuck with a huge lawsuit from a barn/stable gone wrong.  They’re grappling with lawyers, insurance companies and contractors that refuse to refund their money.  And they literally built their house themselves – they milled the wood, stacked the logs with homemade cement, they did it ALL.  And all 4 of us have this fire that won’t extinguish.  It’s this fire that keeps all of us going to work and tending to the daily chores for we know that it’s not always going to be like this.

Renee’s a kick, man!  She puts on no airs, apologizes for nothing.  She is honest, open and willing to say it like it is.  I like that.  I can appreciate that.  We’re both leery of others in showing the side of ourselves that can be judged or hurt, having been stung far too many times.  She digs into life without asking for permission.  Henry’s a sly comedian, sitting back to think about his next move with careful consideration.  You can imagine the late night conversations we had over bottles of honey beer and fortune cookies.  Don’t ask.  On their farm also lived three dogs, one donkey, many cats and four horses.  In their cover of goodies sat an array of motocross bikes, including a 100cc bike for Jack.  Never having used a clutch before, Jack was ready to take on the challenge.  This was the perfect setting for him as he had 2 young men at the ready to help coach him.  Terry was in awe of the setting – many acres of farming land, animals, a beautiful hand-built log home…and a motocross bike just his size.  I found my own Eden in the horses.  I remember as a kid looking out my bedroom window every morning to see if SOMEONE had left a horse in my backyard.  So you can imagine my personal glee.

On that first night, we ate a fabulous meal of cedar plank salmon, halibut and potatoes all cooked on a wood fire outside their home, next to the swimming pond and fire truck.  Yes, fire truck.  This was yet another part of Jack’s perfect day.  After dinner, Jack was given instructions by all on the workings of a clutch and gears.  With determination in his eyes and a stoic look for an expression, he set forth and conquered the gears, careful not to stall or run into any of the animals.  That was so cool to watch!  Around the acres he went, feeling so very proud of himself and his accomplishment.  This was now my new glee.  Terry and I crashed for the night in the trailer while Jack took the maritime approach and bunked with Tanner on the boat.  Before you ask, there is a sailboat on the pond.  How tired was Jack after such a full day?  The next day, he didn’t grace us with his presence until after 9AM.  He had completely drained himself from the previous days fun o’rama.

The next day, Terry and I found ourselves on a motocross mud ride in the Vancouver Island mountains with Tanner and Quinton.  Renee was kind enough to stay back with Jack as he was not ready to tackle the 100cc on a steep climb.  Good choice, little man.  It was steep!  It was all we could do to lean over the handlebars to keep from wheeling up the mountain on only the back knobby.  The sights at the top were exceptional as we watched the rainstorms pass over the valley.  Storms?  Time to head back.  And thanks boys for the tour.  These kids were amazing.  For them to take two adults out and show them the sights was pretty cool.  Dinner that night consisted of us hopping on our respective moto’s and two-wheeling it to the docks for grub.  We must’ve been a sight rolling down the road!  Hey, it’s not often you see 4 GS’s worth of families heading out for dinner.  We got a few looks during the ride.  Funny.

Our final morning on the farm and I couldn’t get in or out of the trailer.  Seems one of the horses had planted himself in front of the door and I was not willing to step behind such a massive beast.  I also awoke to Renee yelling out the window at Abraham, the donkey.   He was quite fond of my sidecases and was using them to scratch that spot on his bum he just couldn’t reach.  I swear I’m not making this stuff up!  All the family, human and equine, gathered to watch us as we packed our gear for the next stop on the journey.  Sad faces all around.  We didn’t want to leave and they weren’t ready for their new friends to venture out.  They wanted nothing more than to pack it up and head north with us.  We asked them to join us, but knew that daily life was going to interfere once again.  It was tricky packing the kitchen as Trouble, the massive male horse, kept trying to stick his head in the case to snag my potatoes.   It was all I could do to keep his giant noggin out of my food, mustard included.  I’m going to miss this horse.  Jack was hiding in the fire truck refusing to get ready to leave.  Can’t blame the kid.  When we finally did find ourselves back on the road, Henry and Renee led us to the grocery store for last minute road snacks then to the Dollar Store.  Renee was hell bent on getting Jack some fishing line and hooks for him to use during the rest of our journey.  He just giggled and grinned as she shoved the tools in his riding jacket, complete with a tube of glow sticks because, well, just because.  Cool.  It was hard to say goodbye to our new friends, but we knew this would not be the last of our meetings.  All of us had extended our ‘circle of trust’, a growing list of friends that would continue to expand as our adventure continued.  It’s hard to find people like Henry and Renee but when you do, you take them in and hold on for the ride cause it’s gonna be a good one.

With one more ferry ride to mainland Canada, we landed north of Vancouver and wound our way along Highway 99.  I truly can’t find the proper words to describe the scene that continued to unfold.  Maybe ‘majestic’ will work but even then I feel like I’m not doing it justice.  We had our sights set on Whistler, BC.  It was going to be touristy but the views would be our trade-off.  We settled into the Listel Hotel and found that our bodies were beginning to shut down from the constant push of days previous.  Sheer travel exhaustion had once again overcome our beings.  To have us on the roads the next day would be dangerous and we again punted, staying another day in Whistler.  This wasn’t a bad thing, really.  We were smack in the middle of the 2010 Olympic Winter Games square but were surrounded by throngs of spoiled teenagers and “all about me” individuals.  Ick.  Focus on the positive.  Focus on the positive.  We did find most of the locals were quite pleasant but the local prices definitely veered toward the tourist sect.  We’re going to need to get back to camping soon if only the weather would cooperate.   Terry and I did manage to sneak our bikes onto the square for a picture in front of the Olympic rings.  We had given each other the “Are you thinking what I’m thinking?” look the day previous when we spotted the massive structure and immediately began working on our strategy.  Knowing that in the morning most of the visitors would be either hung or hanging with the kiddos, we rolled the bikes down the sidewalk at 7AM, past the shops and smack dab in front of the rings.  Not a nark in sight.  Perfect.  We did have one curious visitor, but I doubt an 80-year-old gentleman was going to be much of a threat.  With the photo session done, we gingerly rolled the bikes back out, fired up the motors and sped back to the hotel.  Time to pack for the next dot on the map.  We were going to roll to Kamploops via Highway 99.  Terry had read so many ride reports that insisted all visitors to Canada travel the 99.  Coming from Northern California, I have high expectations.  But if it’s anything like the previous 100 miles, I doubt I will be disappointed.

Our many conversations with Henry and Renee included travel and world issues, education and the future, religion and politics.  Yep, we jumped into the deep end of the pool with no floaties!  And in our conversations, we found ourselves learning as well as educating each other on various topics.  I never knew that Terry and I had something to teach, especially to a family that has taken on more adventurous travel than we.  Huh…you just never know.  And we learned so much as well.  I can’t really explain to you what we learned.  Just know that we are becoming wiser as the journey continues.  And how many people do you know would let you take their bike and ride the mud trails of the Vancouver hillside?  And how many people do you know that would trust you with their home, family and all they hold sacred?  That’s the difference between those who’ve spent time outside of their comfort zone and those who continue to stay where it is deemed safe.  Not all are willing or able to move beyond their walls.  And that, my friends, is the challenge of the day.  I DARE YOU to take even just one step outside your zone.  It’s tricky.  It’s scary.  Trust me, I know!  Maybe take the ‘act as if’ approach.  If you act as if you’re enjoying your time outside the box, you may just find yourself yearning for more.  And a little more.  Maybe a little more.  Or you may not and that’s okay!  But you have to try, right?  You can’t live a vanilla life only to regret it when it’s too late to act.  Remember our ‘some day’ discussion earlier?  These two things go hand in hand.  I hate to sound so cliche, but sometimes it’s the oldies that work the best.

The little man is finally awake, Terry’s loading up the bikes and I’m still sitting on the hotel floor trying to finish this latest entry in time to load up free coffee in the lobby.  Be well, my friends, and enjoy today.  You never know what you may learn.  Cheers.

It’s Tuesday morning around 6:30AM in our favorite hotel in Astoria, Oregon, just under the bridge to Washington.  It’s always a trip to see another state just across the water, knowing that there’s yet another ‘check’ on your list of states.  The boys are still asleep while I steal a little time to spew forth some verbage before we have to jet north.  I can’t wait for Seattle!  It’s one of my top 5 cities ever.  It’s clean, it’s active, and it’s constantly moving.  I like that.  But I digress.  On with the show…

Aaaaaaand it’s now 7:15AM in Seattle on Thursday.  Yes, there’s a slight gap.  But sometimes that’s just how it works.  As soon as you start something, another something appears and you have to hit SAVE and get on with it.  So, here we begin once again.  It’s drizzling outside our hotel room in downtown Seattle.  Fingers are crossed that it lets up by the time we push off at 11AM.  We have to make the shuttle to Vancouver Island, which leaves at 2:45PM from Anacortes.  Need to bang out this entry before we set sail.  And NOW, on with the show…

If you’ve never taken Highway 101 all the way up the Oregon Coast, you truly are missing on some of the most B-E-A-utiful scenery this country has to offer.  You go from redwoods to azure ocean views to rolling farmland.  It’s all stellar.  I swear it smells like my fraser fur candle!  It also reminds me of Iowa from last year’s ride.  Remarkable how so many places in the US can resemble each other yet be in totally opposite locales.  A tip in riding the 101 up the coast – DO NOT be in a hurry.  It may only be just over 100 miles from Newport to Astoria, but there’s one lane each way on most of the highway and there are many, many people taking the same route.  At one of our stretch stops, we met a family from Utah on their 10-day vacation.  Melissa, the mom to little Jackson, has a website call Adventure Tykes.  Like us, she and her husband, Brent, want to continue travelling, showing Jackson all that this planet has to offer.  Very cool kids…very cool.  So we’re not the only crazy ones out there.  With promises to keep in touch, we continued north.

We decided to stop in Astoria for the night knowing that there’s a fabulous Holiday Inn Express under the Astoria Bridge.  We stopped in downtown Astoria first for some bangin’ grub at an urban cafe. When you want great food, always ask where the locals go.  Outside the cafe as we were packing up, I asked a gentleman to take our picture.  Seeing as he and his wife were both carrying Nikon’s around their necks, I figured it was a safe bet.  We ended up listening to his many stories of his travels on motorcycles, how he used to play up the Harley role to get people to move out of his way or leave him alone.  Funny thing, this guy looked like an old hippie and was using a scrunchy to hold back his silver hair.  Ha!  Are you thinking about that ‘Sex in The City’ episode, too?

Our night in Astoria was exactly what we needed.  With a pool for Jack, hot tub for Terry and a laundry room for myself, we got our chores done and our ya-ya’s out.  As always, the view from the room is incredible!  We stood and watched several cargo ships pass under the bridge as the sun was setting.  It was something out of a romantic movie, but it’s hard to relish the moment with a 9-year-old bouncing around the room in his underwear. Oh well, it was a splendid moment anyway.  With delivery pizza in our bellies and a pile of clean clothes on the couch, we settled in for a good night’s sleep with promises of Seattle in the morning.

With bikes packed and a good layer of fog encompassing the bridge, we set north once again DETERMINED to settle in Seattle.  We were a day off but by this time, the so-called schedule was out the window before we even rolled out of the driveway.  We’d been keeping in touch with our Overland Expo friends in Seattle as the trip went on.  We’d met Shannon, Mike and Ducati last April in Amado and instantly connected.  They’re 41 and 43 respectively and we were looking forward to hanging out once again.  And who’s Ducati?  Their Chihuahua, whose traveled to Mexico and back on the back of Mike’s motorcycle.  But first, the hotel…  While YELP is usually a good place to start when looking for all things local, it led us down a twisty path of high and low numbers when it came to finding a reasonably priced hotel.  We settled on the Sixth Avenue Inn.  It was close to most everything, the price was within reason but it did have a few reviews talking about the urine smell in the hallways.  Not to worry, though, as there were plenty of good reviews to counter those.  We parked in front of the hotel only to be met with an overwhelming smell of urine AND THAT WAS IN THE PARKING LOT!  Strike one.  The staff at the front desk was quite friendly and assigned us to room 404.  The lobby was in the middle of being refurbished, so they were at least attempting to update the digs.  When the elevator doors opened, Terry and I could only glare at each other as the stench of urine wafted in.  Strike two.  We put our key in the door, turned the handle and, I swear, it was just like Goldilocks and the 3 Bears – “Someone’s sleeping in my bed!”  Yep!  Bodies in the beds and luggage on the floor.  Strike three!  Needless to say, we turned our sites to Hotels.com and another place pronto.  Fortunately, hotels are aplenty in a large city.  We settled into a fabulous hotel just a block from the Piss Avenue Inn, ordered a bit of room service and nestled in to our clean, sweet smelling room.

And the weather that day?  Absolutely spectacular!  And with a full view of Mt. Ranier.  So very rare.  Even the locals will tell you that the weather that day was a rarity and the most pleasant they’d had all year.  It was a good day to ride even it was on the freeway.  Speaking of freeway, we were spotted by a KOMO Channel 4 reporter.  Terry keyed up on the Autocom and said that some dude in a TV truck was waving and recording he and Jack.  Funny!  Later that day, we received an email for Luke Deucy, local reporter.  If time worked out, he was interested in doing a story on us.  But alas, it did not work out.  We have to set sail to Vancouver Island and can’t wait to hear if it’s a go.   But we do appreciate the interest, Luke!  Thanks for checking us out.

The monorail to the Space Needle and Experience Music Project (EMP) was only a couple of blocks away as was the Pikes Market, complete with the first Starbucks store.  After our tasty room service meal, we rode the monorail to the end, Jack beaming as the driver let him honk the horn at each take-off.  This guy must have kids.  EMP was also hosting an Avatar exhibit.  Last time we were here, the Muppet exhibit was happening and you couldn’t drag Terry and I out of there.  This time around, it was Jack and I salivating.  But of course, we were about a 1/2 hour late and it was closed.  Boooo.  I promised little man we’d check it out the next day.

We crashed pretty hard that night.  If you don’t ride, you don’t know how much it can take out of you.  You’re constantly ‘on’, always on the alert watching for texting drivers and squabbling families.  I’m telling you, if you do this on the road you’ve now become ‘those’ people…and you know who you are.

Wednesday brought a few morning clouds but a more refreshed trio.  Terry and Jack set out for the aviation museum (complete with flight simulator – more glee for Jack) while I did a few errands and had some downtown time.  I swear, there’s a Starbucks on every corner, kind of like San Francisco.  No problem getting wired in this town!  With venti in hand, I walked the streets to Pikes Public Market.  If you’ve never been, please do put it on your bucket list.  It’s a dramatic dance of color and art, vendors and tourists.  Swirls of buttery French croissants mix with the sweet smell of peonies blended with a dash of strawberries…and fish.  Plenty and plenty of fish.  But you can’t forget the famous fish throwers of Pikes Market!  These guys are funny and put on quite a show for the tourists.  And there are scads of tourists.  I can only do so much “Excuse me, excuse you” before I have to cut it and run.  I did manage to score some fresh fruit, veggies, cheese and local wine to fill our bellies for the next 24 hours.  Oh, and don’t forget the can of salmon!  That does travel well and is good protein in a pinch.  Back at the room, I listened to Jack’s stories of the simulator and how it scared him so when it first took off.  He hadn’t realized that the simulator actually moved.  He finally settled in and enjoyed the ride.  The aviation museum was a good score for the guys.

Later that day, we did all venture down to the market where Jack got to see the flying fish in action.  He totally dug it and Terry and I laughed as the same dude kept getting flying fish guts in his face with every throw.  Um, dude, you can MOVE.  Darwin.  While Terry ducked back to the room for a quick wink, Jack and I did the monorail to the Avatar exhibit.  We’ve done the Space Needle and didn’t want to chance another long elevator ride with B.O. man again.  Ick.  The exhibit was very cool as it had James Cameron explaining how he filmed the scenes, incorporated CG, etc.  I was hoping for a life-size Avatar but none was to be found.  I was a little disappointed.  We wandered into the EMP area to check out the Nirvana exhibit.  LOVED that they had Kurt’s striped sweater on display.  There were many notable items to peruse, many of them sweaters.  Hey, it’s cold in Seattle!  Jack enjoyed the interactive music area and how could he not?  I think he was missing his drum set.

Later that night, we headed to Mike and Shannon’s for a BBQ and some catching up.  They live on Beacon Hill overlooking Safeco Field and the airport.  Another rider, John, was bunking with them for a couple of days while he had some repairs done to his BMW 1200GS.  John was headed to Alaska and was fortunate enough to have Mike help plan his route.  You see, Mike and Shannon are seasoned moto travelers having done Alaska and Baja.  Their Chihuahua, Ducati, did Baja with them earlier this year.  Yes, you read that right.  Ducati sports a pair of doggles and little travel box on the back of Mike’s bike.  It’s quite a sight but so very cool.  And to give a hint as to how awesome Shannon is, at 41 she just joined the roller derby league!  Now, how bitchin’ is she?  It was a fabulous evening of food, wine and conversation.  We were also fortunate enough to watch the video of their Alaska trek.  The Alaska bug had now officially bitten Terry.  Next time, honey, I promise.  Mike was soooo excited to share with Jack his Legos from when he was a kid.  And the Lincoln Logs?  They were hand-made by his grandfather.  Jack played and created with Mike eventually joining in.  He told us not clean up before we left.  Something tells me he played with them well into the night.  Eventually the yawns started to overtake us all and it was time to wrap it up.  After hugs all around and wishes for safe travels, Shannon drove us back to our hotel.  What an amazing night.  Very cool people with very similar ideals.  I do hope they join us for some dirt riding in McCloud sooner rather than later.

So, here we are kids.  It’s 10:07AM and we need to pack our final gear and head out.  The skies are clearing and the roads are drying up.  The crossed fingers worked.  Your challenge for today?  You know that person you wished you had the nerve to talk to?  Don’t wish anymore. Do it.  If I hadn’t of asked that gentleman in Astoria to take our picture, we wouldn’t have heard his great stories.  If we hadn’t of struck up a conversation at Overland Expo with Mike and Shannon, we wouldn’t have met some very cool friends.  It’s about expanding your world and sharing your stories.  You may not think you have anything to offer, but you’d be amazed how many people are out there that you may influence in a positive way.  And the more you put yourself out there, the more comfortable you will become.  Hey, if Terry hadn’t of put the word out that we were travelling to Vancouver Island, we wouldn’t have had the offer from another moto family to camp on their property.  It’s all about networking and sharing what we have to offer.  You have peanut butter?  Great!  I have jelly.  You get what I mean, right?  Put yourself out there and be open to new experiences.  You just never know what you might learn about others and yourself.  Cheers.

Well, good morning kids!  It’s Monday morning (don’t ask me the date), and I’m huddled in my Marmot tent at a campground in Newport, Oregon, just over the hill from the ocean.  (For those of you who placed your bets, the winner was…C: None Of The Above). Large drops of condensation are thumping down on my tent, as the fog is quite thick.  I almost thought it rain…almost.  But knowing how coastal fog looms heavy during the summer months, the panic session was over as soon as it began.  Unfortunately, I had to retrieve some gear that Terry had left on his bike.  Let’s just say his nickname for today is Ol’ Soggy Britches.  I know I’ve only written one entry but you must remember in order to write about our experiences we have to actually live them.  It’s now 5:30AM, perfect time to sit quietly and tap out our life the past couple of days.

In Pepperwood, after a breakfast of eggs and homemade bisquits ala Nette, Jack promptly asked when it was time for him to take a spin on the tractor.  Not to worry, love, the time is now.  As I finished the morning dishes, Nette was giving Jack the final instructions on how to not run anything over.  She was sure to not give the tractor full power.  Smart woman.  Driving a tractor is Jack’s version of heaven.  As Jack drove down the road, we slowly followed him along, still catching up on old times and getting the lowdown on the plans for the farm.  Nette and Jay have taken on quite a job and they’ve done so much.  I know they will succeed.  We pushed off around noon with promises that our visits would be sooner than every 20 years.

Our original plan was to stay in Brookings for one night, but exhaustion can quickly take over and alter your plans without your permission.  You know how you feel when you race, race, RACE to get ready for a trip only to find yourself completely useless by the time you get there?  Now imagine that you have to be fully interactive and coherent while underway, your brain constantly engaged.  No chance of a nap on a motorcycle, unless you’re Jack.  Lucky kid.  We pulled up to the Best Western that sits right on the beach in Brookings and Jack was instantly recognized by Monica, a lovely woman who was working the front desk on our trip 2 years previous.  Funny!  She went on and on about “the kid who talked to me about his own website and his own page and everything.”  It was so cool!  She marveled at how big Jack had gotten and how at Best Western they’re not just employees, that they remember their patrons and do actually care.  Monica, you have proven that to be true.  After unpacking our bags, hitting the beach and having a crappy meal at the restaurant across the street, Terry and I decided to call it and hang another day.  Hmmmm, another day on the beach with my family with a view of the ocean from my room?  Yes, please!

Ah, the beach.  Can I tell you how much I miss being only 30 minutes away?  Living in Sonoma County for so many years, one tends to take advantage of such a luxury.  Being able to walk the coastline with my family is something I covet all too often.  And here I am with not a lick of fog and no crowds, strolling the northwest shores of the Pacific Ocean with my husband and son as the sun slowly disappears over the town.  Bliss.  After Terry and I shared bottle of cabernet on the balcony and some uninterrupted conversation, we slipped into what I can only describe as a near coma, the haste of days previous taking their toll on our bodies.  We slept in, taking advantage of not having to actually be anywhere.  That’s a nice feeling.  Between the pool, the beach and the hot tub, Jack was pretty much in 9-year-old heaven.  Throw in the tractor and I think the poor thing would’ve exploded from sheer glee.  I could’ve done without the couple of loads of laundry, but I really don’t have any room to complain.  We did venture out around lunchtime to hit up The Hungry Clam, a favorite local restaurant that was not much bigger than my tent.  Not to worry though as the fresh, hand-cut halibut was gently deep-fried and served up with fries complete with plastic basket.  I highly recommend The Hungry Clam.  And if you don’t make it there for grub, at least be sure to come in and check out the king crab on display on the wall.  It’s one of the last crabs caught by Captain Phil from “The Deadliest Catch”.  That was kind of cool and eerie at the same time.  If you’re a fan of the show, you know exactly whom I’m talking about.

We did make time to take a lap through the local outdoor market down by the harbor, AKA “The place to buy knives, old dental tools and fresh strawberries.”  Veterans lined either side all ready to discuss the wars, new and old, giving their reasons as to why we should or should not be involved.  Listening to their stories was not a choice.  Once you stopped for a bit, you heard it all.  But that’s okay.  When I’m older, I’ll appreciate someone half my age stopping to listen to what I have to say no matter how much I ramble on.  Terry had singles at the ready to stuff into each veteran’s Kerr jar.

While the boys headed back to camp, it was time for me to head to the store for bonfire food fixin’s.  Sorry, but if we’re near a beach and ‘dinner-on-a-stick’ is an option, I’m diggin’ in!  Tonight’s menu?  Scorched polish dogs and a large salad.  The trick to having a good salad on the road is to always carry your own olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  You get the spring greens in the hard plastic container, take out the things that look like weeds, add plenty of cut peppers, tomatoes and other veggies, and you’ve now balanced your menu.  It took all 3 of us to get a large enough pile of wood together to sustain a fire for what we thought would be a couple of hours.  There were at least 2 other families collecting their wood for the night, so we had to be stealth and swoop in under the radar.  It worked.  We relished in the fact that we had the largest pile and quickly abandoned that thought as 1/3 of it disappeared as we tried to just get the damn thing going!  It finally took off and soon we had perfectly charred dogs and a sunset for a view.  Dessert?  Why yes, a melted marshmallow will round out the evening just fine.  Another shared bottle of wine on the balcony with my husband and more uninterrupted conversation.   I could get used to this!  But alas, our eyelids began to weigh heavy so we charted our course for the next day.

I both dread and relish the thought of rolling back on the throttle in search of whatever the road brings.  It’s a mixed bag.  Convincing Jack that it’s a good idea to leave such a beautiful locale is a job in and of itself.  But again, I’m not complaining.  A girl just needs to vent every so often lest she blows.  We had slowly talked about leaving the night before only to be met with a big bottom lip and a low level, “Okay.”  Poor little dude.   Jack does know that with every departure comes the chance to make a new friend and create new memories.  And having to convince him of this each time has taught Terry and I a lesson on how best to talk with Jack about the power of change, how each new place brings a new chapter for him to fill.  So onward we roll.

We had every great intention of making at least Portland if not Seattle.  My money, as well as several peoples, was on Seattle.  Lordy knows that if I set my mind on something, there’s a 99% chance it’s going to happen.  This time, fortunately, the 1% won over.  It was Father’s Day and none of us wanted to rush the day and head inland, also known as 4 lanes of Highway 5.  Yuck.  We loathe the freeway.  And why should we rush just to make time when there’s this bounty of lush green that envelopes you as you glide through every turn.  The thought just seemed silly and we voted to camp for the night in Newport.  As the boys set up camp, I set into town in search of a meal fit for my better half.  Freshly cooked crab?  I’ll take one please.  And you have large scallops?  Four of those.  Oh, and can you point me to the nearest market so I can pick up some fresh greens?  Thanks, love.  By the time I made it back to camp, the tents were up, the bags unpacked and I was ready to do some damage in the kitchen.  By now, Jack had played several renditions of ‘Summer of ’69’ for some kids in the next camp and became the new friend in the group.  Perfect.  Told ya, buddy.  There are new friends to be made at every stop.  While Jack played, Terry and I caught up with each other, prepared dinner and enjoyed a bottle of Oregon cabernet.  More butter, olive oil and garlic and our meal was complete.  Take that restaurant food!  Not you, Tony!  But I think you know that already.

The parents of Jack’s new buddies came over to check out our setup, convinced that there was NO WAY we could’ve gotten all the gear on just two bikes.  Trust me, after so many years of doing this, I even have room to bring a ‘cute’ outfit!  You never know when that time may arise that I actually get to dress like a girl.  One must be prepared like a good scout.  We eventually ventured over to their campsite so Jack could get in some more kid time and we could get to know them better.  By 10:30, it was time to head back and crash.  Little did we know what the sky had in store.  No worries.  We don’t melt.

To truly enjoy each other, you have to put away the calendars, do away with the timetables and just go with it.  I’ve tried the whole “We HAVE to stick to the schedule!” routine.  Ugh.  It just causes anxiety and unnecessary arguing.  Could you imagine if I had insisted on pressing on to Portland or even Seattle?  Jack wouldn’t have made new friends, I wouldn’t have stumbled upon fresh crab and scallops and Terry would’ve had to have an overpriced restaurant meal for Father’s Day.  When people ask us what our plan is, we just tell them that the plan is to have no plan.  And it works for us.  So your challenge today, kids, is learn to just relax and let the road take you.  There is no destination; there is no schedule; there is no need to be anywhere.  The only thing there is is your family and your willingness to take the road less travelled.  It doesn’t have any McDonald’s or Taco Bell’s, but it does have locally made cheeses and fresh cut flowers.  It also gives you the tools to make your own memories, original memories, not those formed by the opinions of others.  And that is your challenge.  Dare to turn left instead of right.  Try the local fruit stand instead of heading to the grocery store.  Engage a ‘local’ in conversation.  You’d be amazed at some of the people you’ll meet.  And they are the ones that help you create your original memories.  Cheers.

I wish I could pull a Dumbledore and tap my head with my wand and gently pull out my memories, stirring them in a cauldron for all to see.  But alas, I am a mere Muggle and besides, I left the wand at home.  But, I am holding out for a Fairy Godmother store SOMEWHERE along our travels!  I mean, really, if there are stores that sell guns/liquor/fur/fireworks/beef jerky, I think my chances are pretty good.

Let me backtrack a bit to give you a Cliff’s Notes version of our days leading up to leaving on our 4-week journey.  It goes something like this – too many mental lists that brain begins to liquefy; frantic catching up with projects you swore you were going to start weeks ago; 1 yard of decomposed granite and 3 yards of bark waiting in front of the house 3 days before leaving; confirm and reconfirm with ‘Good Day Sacramento’ with hopes they don’t keep you in the 6AM time slot; get the dog to the friends, the orange tree to the neighbors and hope you don’t confuse the two; 11th hour cleaning out of the fridge (aka Tilt fridge forward and empty contents into trash can); crazed look on faces as the mad scramble to wrap up all work projects ceases to wane.  I think that covers about most of it.  Just insert a few choice words here and there for color and you’ve pretty much covered our life this past week.

So this early Friday morning, I’m fortunate enough to be sitting at the table of a childhood friend, tucked away off the Avenue of The Giants, deep in the soul of Humboldt County.  I’m attempting to gather my thoughts but find myself replaying yesterday over and over again.  What were the highlights?  All of it.  What moved me the most?  Everything.  So, let’s try this again…

We were asked to come by the ‘Good Day Sacramento’ studio on Thursday for a send-off from one of their news people.  Courtney and Dave came by on Wednesday and did a few segments in our backyard.  Talk about a lot of fun!  You never know what you’re going to get with the “Wacky Bruce” crew, but Courtney was an absolute delight to host.  We’d met Dave (the camera dude) last year at another segment about a kid crawling into a plush crane.  Don’t ask.  Our Wednesday gig consisted of showing them how we pack followed by me cooking them breakfast via JetBoil and sporks.  Okay, I cheated juuuuuust a little and cooked the potatoes in my kitchen before crisping them up with the peppers and olive oil.  Cut me some slack!  I was barely vertical and had just completed the bark project less than 12 hours previous!  Courtney and Dave were truly a delight and stayed for breakfast and swapping of stories.  So when we stopped by the studio on our way out on Thursday, it was like old times when Courtney and Dave pulled up in the news van.  We were hanging out waiting for our “big send-off” which was to consist of us giving the final goodbye with promises of Skype calls and pictures, waving as we pulled out of the studio parking lot.  What it REALLY consisted of was us pulling out of the parking lot, U-turning it back and Dave giving Jack a tour of the studio.  I know, I KNOW, I’m blowing the magic moment, but how do you deny a 9-year-old gear-head a look behind the wizard’s curtain?  In the end, Courtney fixed Jack up a plate of food, we chatted it up with a few of the news people, and suited up for the “real” departure.  No cameras this time around.

Can you guess what is the BIGGEST archenemy of motorcycles everywhere?  Wind.  Gusting, blowing, curse-inside-your-helmet wind.  And today, there was plenty of it.  Shazbot!  We had to make up time on Interstate 5 to get to Highway 20.  I loathe the freeway.  But when we have to get from A to B in a certain amount of time, there is no other option.  So imagine 30 MPH gusts coming from the north, two eager parents and one exhausted child.  We were not in our “happy place”, but we made it through unscathed.  We thought the foothills would provide some relief but they only proved tricky when struck by a swirling gust as we rounded each corner.  Fine.  Whatever.  With a brief stop at Foster’s Freeze in Lucerne, just along Clear Lake, we headed west to the 101, eventually making our way into redwood country.  Oh, how I MISS this area!  Being from Sonoma County, I truly do miss the rolling hills, redwood trees and fog.  Riding along 101 is like coming home for me, and for Terry as well.  He’s a Sonoma boy but could do without the tourists.  That I understand.  But here we are, tourists for a month.  The roll of the road promises to wear out that flat spot on the back tire while the scenery keeps you rolling on the throttle, eager to see what’s around the next turn.  You want to stop and take pictures, but you can’t.  The ride is too perfect.  I assure myself that Terry’s head-cam will capture whatever pictures we should be taking.  With only 25 miles to go, we stopped at a small market along the Avenue of The Giants to stretch.  Jack was pooped and my and Terry’s legs were not yet used to the hours spent on 2-wheels.  That’s okay – muscle memory will prove itself yet again.  Back on the road, we finally spotted the ear of corn alongside the road (you have to trust me on this one) and knew Nette’s place wasn’t far away.  We rolled into her driveway only to be greeted by a toe-headed cherub with tendrils cascading out from her 2-year-old head.  Meet Alma, spitting image of the young Shirley Temple with a spunk that rivals any child I’d ever met.  Holding Alma was a friend I’d know since our band days back in junior high, Nette.  We used to play flute together in Santa Rosa and went through all the awkward teenage years together only to go our separate ways come high school.  Why?  Not really sure, but I’ll chalk it up to “It just happened that way”.  I’ve always loved Nette for her intellect and free spirit.  And this farm that she and her husband, Jay, had acquired through her family reflected everything I’d remembered about her.  Chickens ran free, acres of chard and other greens covered the grounds and an old VW bus sat in the carport, leftover from the days of her grandfather.  She and Jay took over the farm just last year, cutting their life in the south bay and taking a chance on a life less cluttered.  Good choice.  While Alma led Jack by the hand inside the house, the three adults wandered the grounds as Nette told the history of the land, the trees and how floods had changed the life in Pepperwood forever.  Always thinking about pulling the “plug” and gettin’ the heck outta Dodge, Terry and I took in every story she had to tell.  From the old Ford with the lift gate to the 60 foot tree that was once a bonsai to the fig tree heavy with fruit, it was like our own little Wonderland.

Because we had spent the day battling the wind, we decided to punt and not camp on the grounds. There will be camping aplenty in the days to come.  We spent the evening sharing wine, eating a home-cooked meal that included peas just picked only minutes before, and sharing tales from days past.  It was a magical evening.  I do wish Jay was there to join us, but a previous engagement kept him away.  Next time.  I finally had to call it around 11:30PM and hit the sheets.  Terry was right behind me.  Jack had finally given up around 10PM.  I hope the kid sleeps in.  He needs it and we NEED him to sleep in.  If you’re a parent, you understand.

So what will today bring?  Where are we headed?  I know we’re going north, maybe to Brookings, maybe not.  The plan is to have no plan.  We can’t do the regimented schedule thing.  Too many time constraints and it’s just too rigid.  The goal is to enjoy each other and the places and people we encounter.  You can’t do that if you’re always looking to what’s ahead.  We’ve learned to enjoy the now, the moment.  You grow weary of always passing by with promises of returning some day.  Some day.  We hear that term a lot.  So, when will it “officially” be some day?  Will your inner alarm go off at 65 and say, “Okay, Timmy!  Some day is finally here!  Let’s go get that (insert object) now and go take that trip to (insert random location)!”  Sorry, kids, but Terry and I have known too many people whose lives ended far too soon.  And these were the one’s who lived as if some day never existed!  They KNEW how to grab life and enjoy the ride.  Yet so many of us are waiting, just WAITING, for some day.  Why?  Everyone has their reasons.  And everyone has their fears.  I get that.  But the question is what are you going to do about it?  And that, my friends, is your challenge for today.  Cheers.


Overland Expo 2011….Wow!

We’ve been called crazy.  We’ve been called inspirational. We prefer the latter.  In fact, we prefer anything but usual.  Our travels are always different and off the beaten path.   Preferring the dirt trails as well as roads less taken, we crave a good adventure.  We truly love travelling together as a family.  As the Adventure Trio, we are a strong unit that’s constantly learning from and changing with each trip.   We do this because we love it and we know our time together as a family is short.  You only have so many years to raise your kids before you have to let them go.  But we also do it in hopes of inspiring other family to turn off the TV’s, put down the phones and flee the norm.  Unfortunately for this trip, we had to incorporate a little too much of the norm.  Like I always say, you have to keep the boss happy.  You’ll soon learn who holds the reigns in the family.

We’d been gearing up for our first trek of the year and Overland Expo 2011 for months.  This annual gathering of overland travelers, as well as those looking to learn more about overland travel, was held the first weekend of April in Amado, Arizona.  My husband, Terry, was VERY eager to get a look at all the modified vehicles that tackle the terrain.  Jack, our 9 year old, was just looking forward to getting out of school a couple of days before spring break.  No, seriously, he couldn’t wait to harness up and ride behind dad.  And myself?  I was ready to stalk and get to know some of the world’s foremost experts in moto travel.  Well, that and being able to see how much stuff I can pack onto two BMW GS’s.  Remember, there is a kid involved here and you know how much kids like bringing ‘stuff’.   And for those of you who aren’t in the know, we strap Jack’s guitar on the back of Terry’s bike.  Not kidding.

Oil changed in the bikes?  Check.  Radios working?  Roger that.  Tents looking good?  Sort of.  I’m thankful that there’s an REI in most major cities for those “just in case” moments.  We were 2 weeks out and still hadn’t tackled one major hurdle.  Yes, we burned it at both ends in order to go on this trip.  Yes, we had tagged all the bases as far as work coverage.  But how to get the bikes TO Arizona was the one thing we had yet to figure out.  All of us can plan and check off lists, but even that can’t keep Jack’s schooling and Terry’s schedule from keeping us home just a little longer than we’d like.  We didn’t have the time to ride our bikes there as we only had a little over a week to travel and that was not going to give us enough time to cover the miles.  Boo.  Solution?  Terry would drive a rental truck one way on Wednesday and meet up with a work colleague for a place to stay in Phoenix.  Jack and I would hop a plane after school on Thursday and meet up at said locale. Then, all of us would suit up Friday morning for the 2-hour ride to Amado.  Perfect.  But as any rider knows, you’re constantly buried in that pesky weather site on your phone.  Huh, record temperatures in Arizona and a chance for freezing thunderstorms later in the week on our way home.  Mother Nature must be bipolar.

After a Thursday night of catching up with friends and setting the bikes up, Friday was met with a bit of a head scratcher.  How was I going to carry all of Jack’s so called necessary items?  The drumstick bag, Harry Potter novel and bazillions of Transformers were going to have to head home.  Sorry, buddy, but the minimalist thing applies to all of us.  With a final click of the bungee cord and a thank you to our gracious hosts, we set south once again as a trio.  It’s amazing how the roll of the throttle can instantly change your mood.  Good times.

We rolled in to Overland Expo and were immediately greeted with dust, lots and lots of dust.  No problem.  We’re used to anything at this point.  The wind did give us a bit of trouble when it came to setting up the tents, but what are you going to do?  We bunked next to a lovely girl and a British chap she’d met up with earlier in the week.  She was setting around the states for a couple of months while he was jumping in with both feet and heading to South America.  He had many reservations about going though Mexico.  Don’t worry, cahp.  Trust in the goodness of others and you will be well.

Expo exceeded our expectations ten-fold!  Meeting so many fabulous riders as well as being asked to help inspire other families to travel made it all worth the extra hours.  It always does.  And meeting Ted Simon?  I think I almost curtsied.   Camping in 100+ degree weather on the dirt brings its own set of challenges.  You’ve got a little man to think of as far as shade and a full Camelbak.  But he’s a true traveler and has learned to adjust to any situation.  With sun block slathered and a little store that sold cold beverages, the boy was set.  Throw in some ice cream, too?  Why not.  It’s all about keeping the boss happy.  And what else makes Jack happy?  Playing his guitar for a willing audience.  Tonight’s special guest was none other than Cupcake Carl.  Why Cupcake you ask?  Well, the only way to traverse the darkness back to our campsite was by motorcycle and Terry’s got the bigger bike.  Carl on back equals riding cupcake. Sorry, Carl, but it just fits.  With a meal of spaghetti and entertainment by Jack, it was the Saturday night out we needed.

By the last day of Expo, the winds were expected to gust up to 50MPH.  It was time to arrange for an early exit and start heading back to California. We had the whole week planned and needed to be in, ugh, Disneyland by Thursday.  I know, I know, it doesn’t sound very pleasant or adventurous but you have to remember, KEEP THE BOSS HAPPY!  With our fill of blowing dust met, we rolled north in hopes of making it to Casa Grande, Arizona, for the night.  We didn’t want to push it regarding weather and the Holiday Inn Express guaranteed a pool for Jack, WiFi for Terry and a laundry facility for me.  Check, check and check.  And parking it for the day was by far the best decision we had made yet!  Not 5 minutes after taking off our helmets, I went out to unload in one of the largest wind gusts I’d ever witnessed.  This wave of curling dust came roaring from the west, bending all trees in half and shaking the bikes from side to side.  I thought for sure mine was going to go over.  And Terry and Jack weren’t even there to witness it!  I swear, boys, it was surreal.   Oh, and for your information, a hotel bathroom does double as a kitchen, but not in a Kramer sort of way.  You know what I mean.

With bikes full of clean clothes and a GPS set for Alpine, California, we headed west  on the 8 in yet ANOTHER day of gusting winds.  After a while, you just quit your complaining and learn to ride sideways.  We had hopes of camping along the Colorado River in Yuma, but quickly learned that Yuma is not very, ahem, kid friendly.  Also, the winds were so bad that our chances of setting up the tents were slim at best.  So Alpine it was, home of a friend we hadn’t seen in quite some time.  It was going to be a long day on the road for Jack, looking to be about 7 hours on the bike.  He’s learned that some days are longer than others, that sometimes it’s about making up the miles in order to be able to stop and enjoy our time together.

We rolled into Alpine ready to be done with the gusty winds.  Enough already, I get it!  Our friend’s home was more like Jack’s personal playground.  Video games, air hockey and musical instruments – it was his version of Christmas morning.  Those of you who know me know that in exchange for lodging, you will be well fed.  With side cases unloaded, I headed to my own version of Christmas morning, the grocery store.  I swear I wish I could capture the looks on people’s faces as they watch me load a cart full of groceries onto a motorcycle.  It’s always my personal “neener” to fit it all on including 2-dozen roses tucked safely in.  Okay, did I mention that I couldn’t quite shut the right side case?  Did I also mention that Alpine is a riding paradise of twists and turns?  Let’s just say I came home with 1 dozen roses and that some lucky person out there felt good about giving their sweetheart some beautiful roadside flowers.  Hey, if it’s meant to be, right?  But man, it felt good to toss around an empty bike again.

The fun and catching up can only last so long.  The need to twist the throttle beckons constantly, so off to (AAAAACK!) Disneyland we trudge.  Remember, it is Jack’s spring break and we can think of no better way to spend a day than watching lazy people scoot around in carts and exhausted families hauling around their brood of 20. I’m not joking!   Not the adventure we were looking for, but you’ve got to let the kid get his fill of rides and happy music.  But I’ve got to say, there’s no better advertising to get families out and about then rolling up a hotel on a Wednesday, dirty and loaded to the gills.  Stares from the husbands and glares from the wives…awesome.  Well, we did our best to put off entering the magic kingdom, but we finally headed out late Thursday morning.  So, Jack has never been on nor heard of Space Mountain?  Jack, you really haven’t?  Then we must go there first! And Jack, you’d like to sit with daddy?  You’ve got it buddy!  Trust me, this ride was done PURELY for my and Terry’s entertainment.  I could hear Jack screaming before we even started the climb up.  “And I’d like to announce the winner’s of this years Parents of the Year….”   It took him a bit to stop hating us, but he fully recovered with promises of NEVER going on that ride again.   In all honesty, we did have a pretty good experience at Disneyland.  When the heads of Disney got smart enough and loaded Downtown Disney with restaurants that featured full bars, they were really on to something, purely done to keep the parents happy and willing to fight another day.  But, alas, our time at Wally World had come to an end.  And to the delight and cameras of the people watching us load up, we posed for a few pictures and made our way north on the 101.  We seemed to be a bit of an anomaly.

Today’s destination?  Monterey.  Today’s actual stopping point?  Not Monterey.   When we ride staggered, I’m Terry’s wingman, calling out certain cars to watch for and lane changes.  Have you ever ventured through the L.A. freeway system?  I don’t recommend it in a car LET ALONE a family of 3 on motorcycles!  Lordy, what a mentally exhausting experience.  Fortunately, Jack is oblivious to what Terry and I experience.  It’s true that when you ride a motorcycle, your peripheral vision becomes much more acute, tuning into certain drivers that just even LOOK like they’re going to do something stupid.  Now imagine our peripheral vision after 3 Red Bulls.  Are you getting the idea?  Never, ever again will I do that but for that day’s ride, it was necessary.  Like I said, never again.  We couldn’t wait to hit south of Santa Barbara and roll along the coastline.  But, I see traffic completely stopped on the freeway.  Surely, you must be joking.  Nope.  Okay, what brilliant CalTrans official thought it prudent to merge 3 lanes into 2 on the 101 not just once but TWICE?  Oh, the agony.  But, oh, the lane splitting!  Fortunately for us, Terry and I have learned to be quite agile on a weighted down bike and are able to maneuver through the crowd.   In all, it has now taken us 5 hours to get just north of Santa Barbara.  Monterey is not looking so good.  And what are those black clouds looming to the north of us, you know, the direction we need to head?  Like I said earlier, pack for everything!  We entered the darkness and were immediately greeted by a wall of water.  Jack has been through this before, but the wind was so chilling and the rain so relentless that we pulled off in Buellton to make the “call”.  Forge ahead to San Luis Obispo or stay and call it a day.  Jack wanted to stay.  Not a problem, buddy.  You’ve been a real trooper.  We got to the hotel just in time as even travelers in cars were pulling in for the night and it was only 4PM.  Yes, the storm was that bad.

The next morning we were greeted by an azure sky and no winds.  Today Monterey!  With one day left in our trek, we took advantage of our time and headed to the ocean.  Jack delighted in the seals and fishing boats.  It’s always a blessing to watch that sort of sheer enjoyment in your child’s face.  We slept lightly that night knowing that our journey was ending the next day.   In the morning, we reluctantly packed our gear for the last time, threw a leg over our bikes and made the solemn journey home to Davis.  Even Jack wasn’t ready to go.  That’s the true sign of a successful family adventure.  When we arrived home, Jack was immediately greeted by a neighborhood buddy.  Oh, the stories he had to tell.  He didn’t even take his helmet off he was so eager to share.

And that’s why we do what we do.  Nothing can replace the memories we have of our travels on two wheels.  We’ve been riding as a family for over 4 years now.  You can’t imagine what a privilege it is to be able to spend time together as a family.  Sure it’s a lot of work, but isn’t everything?  As with all our adventures, we learn something along the way.  This time we learned to slow down even more, to take our time and enjoy the journey, not just the destination.  There’s always going to be storms, there’s always going to be challenges, but what Jack is experiencing is far beyond anything we could’ve imagined.  We plan on keeping it that way.

“You know you’ve hit trip/vacation mode when you don’t remember the day, the time or even care.  It’s a feeling all should experience more than once in this life.”

So, as promised in the last entry, I was going to try and put into words the weather we were doing our best to skirt as we approached our roots for the night, McCook, Nebraska.  Let me try and put a picture in your head…instead of blue sky and fluffy, white clouds, we were headed into satan’s playground.  A glorious mass of ever changing shape, ominous colors that spanned from dark gray to black to green, all pointing to one conclusion – tornado.  Fortunately for us before our trip, Terry had downloaded a weather application to his GPS that show’s, in real time, large storm cells, flooding, you get the picture.  Because our heads were constantly buried in weather.com (when we could GET a Wi-Fi), we knew there was a chance of encountering such a storm; this is why it was McCook, Nebraska and NO FURTHER!  The further east we rolled, the darker the sky became.  Each time I keyed up on the radio, Terry assured me that the weather was heading southeast, and that we would be avoiding its path.  Uh, huh.  I’m not really into the name Dorothy (no offense, Piazza!) and I certainly didn’t bring a little dog.  But, I did have a little child, and that was close enough for any parent.  Ten miles out, five miles out, the sky continued to change, molding itself into an even greater spectrum of colors.  But wait!  It was turning itself further south, away from our intended destination, moving away faster than we had initially anticipated.  WE WERE GOING TO LIVE!  By the time we rolled into the Holiday Inn Express, the storm had broken up (think “Twister” style) and had almost completely vanished.  No joke!  I had heard that Midwest storms came and went within minutes.  All 3 of us were a witness to such a phenomenon.  Stellar.  Frightening.  Exhilarating.  Emotionally exhausting.

There were 2 Honda Goldwings parked under the overhang when we rolled in, both branded with Kentucky plates.  Inside there were to older couples (I’m guessing mid to late 60’s – don’t hate me if I’m wrong, gang) that had just rolled through the mother of all rainstorms.  Tom, Birdie, Gary (Mr. Birdie) and one more lovely female whose name escapes me right now, were all looking pretty dry given the previous wrath of nature.  They were in great spirits, asking if we, too, had encountered such weather.  Not on this leg, but I can tell you some stories!  They were wonderfully chatty, talking of their ride, how they were doing 500-mile days, ANY and all topics that could be discussed.  As Terry and I checked in, Jack was outside holding court, pointing out all of our stickers, telling tales of our travels, not wanting mom or dad ANYWHERE near him as he played the 8 year old adult.  I knew better than to poke my head outside to check in, but I did anyway.  I was quickly shooed away.  Parents!  One of the guys let Jack sit in the passenger seat of his bike.  Wrong move!  Jack immediately sank in exclaiming, “Daddy!  You need to get one of THESE!”  Sure, kid.  Good luck with that.  We chatted a lot with the Kentucky group.  Well, WE didn’t chat much, but we sure did hear some great stories.  Gotta love it.  Now, to find a place open for dinner that wasn’t fast food.  Ick.  The ‘Nice But Genetically Challenged’ lady at the front desk suggested a place in town, a family-style restaurant.  Please keep that descriptor on your brain as THIS story unfolds.  Away we rode to grab some much-needed grub.  Found the place, parked next to a newer Suburban with a California license plate, can’t be all that bad, eh?  Ahem…as the door slammed closed behind us, we were greeted with a female voice behind the counter yelling, “Well, FUCK YOU, then!  Goddamn mother fucker!”  Apparently, she and the cook were having a bit of a spat.  Ah, FAMILY TIME!  Terry and I looked at each other with a raise of the eyebrows, but decided to stick it out.  We were instructed by another, much nicer waitress to sit anywhere.  As we approached a booth, I began to notice a recurring theme within the four walls – couples and families, all very, VERY large in size, all not talking, all slung over their respective bowls of Jell-O/meat surprise/gray veggies.  The walls were adorned with cookie jars, new and old, mostly just creepy.  We ordered our drinks and no, “We don’t have beer or wine.”  Booooo….  That would’ve made this place at least tolerable if not comical.  Jack exclaimed, “This place freaks me out.”  I agreed, saying that it gave me the creeps.  Terry looked me straight in eyes and asked, “Do you want to go?  Say the word.”  I said it.  We were outta there!  Terry gave the waitress some lame excuse, and we blasted out of there as fast as we could get our helmets on.   The classy waitress was STILL lambasting the cook as we headed out the door.  Ah, good times.  A BBQ down the street filled our bellies just fine.  Still a lot of severely obese Nebraskans, but they had Fat Tire Ale and a waitress that didn’t swear.  Ta da!

That night around 2AM, I was awakened but the most unheard of storm I’ve ever experienced in my 40, ahem, 34 years.  I checked on Terry and Jack, both sound asleep, and made my way to the window.  Outside our window was what I can only describe as the mother of weather all coming together into one MOTHER of a brew.  The flags flew straight out as constant bolts of lightening littered the sky from every direction.  Crashes of thunder hitting again and again and again as sheets of rain and balls of hail came hurling down.  Man, God was PISSED!  I’d NEVER seen such a thing!  I mean, I’ve always heard about Midwest storms, but I never imagined I’d find myself in one.  I was never so thankful to be under a solid roof.  I watched for a while until it began to scare me, fearing that the window would become shards of glass at any moment.  I ran back to bed, pulling the covers to my chin, hoping it would stop soon.  It did.  Remember, these storms come and go quickly.  The wind died down, the hail stopped, the rain softened.  I could, once again, resume my beauty sleep.  I was going to need it.

The morning brought those bright blues skies and fluffy clouds I was hoping for.  The forecast for the next week – sunny!  Finally.  We loaded up once again to an audience of genetically challenged hotel employees.  I’m sorry, McCook, but this town is just WEIRD.  I know Nebraska is not this way (T-Roy), but this place just gave us the willies.  Time to move on to Kansas!  We had very high hopes for Kansas.  It’s just one of those places that always held the promise of small town life, laid back days, and friendly, open people.  Our hopes were high, especially Terry’s.  Our small-town experiences thus far had proved vanilla with not much to report.  He wanted homemade pies, people waving from porches, the whole Norman Rockwell scene.  I was, too.  Jack just wanted to make sure that we weren’t rolling for too many miles between stops.  Don’t worry, buddy, we’ve got you covered.  And now, Kansas…and they like to wave to ya…

After a brief stop to take a picture by the “Welcome to Kansas” sign, we continued south then east on a two-lane road, rolling along with the hills, our heads on a swivel as we marveled at the natural landscape that was Kansas.  Fields of golden wheat and cornstalks of varying heights enveloped us.  With each new hill came a new scene – flat to the south, hills to the north, farmhouse and silo, horses running along the fence lines.  It truly was the Kansas we were looking for.  Awesome.  We had chosen the small town of Lenora to stop for lunch.  The dot on our map was only slightly larger than some of the others, so we felt it was “the” place to stop.  It was really our only choice at this point.  Terry spotted the sign to our right and with blinkers on, we rolled down the lonely road, passing the town grain warehouse as we entered.  Hmmmm…Doesn’t look to be much around.  A very small downtown boasted a bank, post office, tiny grocery store and several closed businesses.  I couldn’t help but think a Wal-Mart had something to do with these closed signs.  I loathe Wal-Mart, but that’s a whole other story.  There was one man walking the street, so I pulled up along side of him and asked if there was any place to eat.  Yes, the brick building with the hand written sign just a block up.  Handwritten?  Yup, there it was, The Tavern, the sign stating, “We are open”.  Were kids allowed?  You never know, as each state is different and weird about their liquor laws.  Yes, kids were allowed.  Score.   We opened the squeaky, heavy wooden door and entered a whole new scene.  I swear if the jukebox were playing, it would have come to a screeching halt.  All heads turned to watch the newcomers saunter in, odd clothing and all, carrying motorcycle helmets.  The place was now silent.  It was right out of a movie.  We slowly walked in, taking a booth to our right, hoping to not upset the natural balance of the place too much.  Folks soon returned to their meals, some resumed their conversations.  The very nice proprietor notified us of the day’s special, cheeseburger and fries, only $4.95.  Do you have hot dogs by any chance?  Goal!  Jack is more of a hot dog kinda guy.  We watched as several more towns folk meandered in, as it was almost noon straight up.  The women from the bank came in, the men from the fields, it was a potpourri of people with us thrown in just to stir things up a bit.  No one would talk to us.  Some looked our way, a couple smiled, but only one was brave enough to strike up a conversation.  “You ride all the way from California?  That’s great!”  This guy was sitting with a group of other farm guys all dressed the same in their Wrangler’s, baseball caps with the perfectly rounded bill, and button down plaid shirts, some with the sleeves ripped off.  It was the classic Kansas scene we’d hoped for.  Finally, after the first guy initiated the conversation, a couple of others began to pipe in here and there.  Our orders came and you guessed it, it was the size of a $4.95 meal.  A very small, hand formed burger, small side of fries, but it was good and it was fast.  I asked the owner if it was okay if I took a few pictures of the place.  No problem!  The walls boasted pictures and articles about the history of the town.  Headlines such as “Lenora Gets Electricity” and “The New Auto Dealership” hung over each booth and by the bar.  I love small town memorabilia.  It’s honest and there’s no hype unlike the newspapers today that grace our driveways every morning.  The owner asked, “Are you lost?  Because anyone who comes to Lenora is lost.”  “No.  We actually put it in our GPS as a spot to stop for lunch.”  “You did?  Boy, are you lucky.   I just started serving lunch last week and have only been open for 2 months.”  Yes, we were fortunate.  Had there been no restaurant, we’d been forced to buy something at the small grocery next store where the large, sweaty dude in overalls sat on the front steps like a bad hood ornament.  The dude who struck up the conversation when we were eating piped in with, “Man!  I wish I hadn’t lent out my motorcycle today or I’d ride along with you for a while!”  Now THAT would’ve been cool – GROUPIES!  We paid our tab (the cheapest meal yet) and headed back out into the heat to suit up.  The guys from the table came out for a smoke, leaning on the brick building, finishing up their conversations from lunch.  It was a classic photo, one I attempted to take without them knowing it.  We’ll see how it turns out.

Our home for the night was going to be, you guessed it, the Holiday Inn Express in Concordia, Kansas.  Hey, when you’re on the road, a place with a laundry, pool and hot tub satisfies all the members of the family!  Now, if they’d only throw in a mini bar…  And what’s with this humidity thing?  We surely don’t have THIS in California!  Ugh.  It was about 90 degrees with 90% humidity.  Splendid.  I love when my makeup just sliiiides right off my face.   We also noticed all the piles of tree branches that dotted each side of the town streets.  Looks like they felt the affects of the storm, too.  Keeping fingers crossed we don’t get another one the rest of the trip.  After unloading our gear, I looked down at my feet and noticed it was about time for a pedicure.  Just because I’m on a motorcycle doesn’t mean I have to look like ass!  I usually do my own (and I do a very good job, thank you), but decided to support the local economy and get one in town.  Time to make an appointment for tomorrow morning.  We’d passed a place on our way into town that was along the main drag.  Looked nice enough so let’s give it a go.  The place was only 1.2 miles away and it was such a nice day out, why not walk?  Hell, I’ve been in veal mode for too long and needed the exercise.  And the humidity?  Won’t bother me.  I’m tough!  Uh huh.  I made my way through the narrow streets of Concordia, taking in the beauty of the older homes, making sure not to trip over any of the piles of tree branches.  It sure was getting a tad warm.  I really wanted to have at least ONE cute day outside of the helmet.  But today was NOT going to be the day.  By the time I walked in the door of the salon, all my makeup had slid off, my hair was in a ponytail and stuck to my neck, and my pits rivaled any Wall Street stockbroker.  I was officially gross.  But I was greeted by a very young, very nice, very fresh out of beauty school Kansas girl.  I liked her.  We chatted the entire time she filed and painted.  She was not yet 20, got pregnant at 17 and was still with the babies father.  That was good to hear.  She was ambitious, wanting more for herself and her family, soaking in all the stories of our travels, eager to hear more.  She’d never been out of Kansas, with the exception of visiting her father in Colorado.  She needed to educate herself.  She needed to flee.  I told her, you can always come back but you need to leave.  There’s so much out there!   Do it while you’re young and take your family with you.  All the hassle and planning and saving is worth every memory.  I truly hope she takes my advice.  She’s not stupid, just young.  And I do hope her pedicure skills improve with time.

Terry and Jack met me for lunch afterwards at a Mexican food restaurant down from the salon.  Food!  Was it good?  So-so, but we were full.  And speaking of food, I’m sooooo tired of restaurants!  We all were.  But wait!  The hotel had a huge gas grill just outside the pool area.  Are you thinking what I’m thinking?  Those of you who know me well enough know that I’d rather cook than go out.  I’ll feed the masses anytime.  It took very little convincing to get Terry and Jack to agree to a night of BBQ, healthy, California-style.  Off to the local store we go!  Chicken?  Yes.  Bread?  Yes.  Corn?  NO?  Are you KIDDING ME?  We’re in THE corn capital and not an ear to be found.  Bummer.  Heavy sigh.  Okay, red peppers and mushrooms it is.  I couldn’t wait to get back to the hotel.  While Jack and Terry headed to the pool, I did all the prep work in our bathroom.  Remember, our “kitchen” is in the Givi top case on my bike.  Spices, a knife, Jetboil, I had it all!  And now, for a well earned home-cooked meal.  With my kitchen set up on the outside table, I found myself right at home, like I was grilling in my own backyard.  Ah, felt good.  Jack had made a friend with a girl, Hannah, so we invited her to join us for dinner.  Her mom and some other people joined in for some wine and conversation.  As the sky turned to nightfall and the clouds gathered and darkened, you could see lightening off in the distance.  Man, not again!  And was that a raindrop?  Thankfully, we were already done and ready for hit the sack.  We bid goodnight to our new friends with promises of keeping in touch.  I really hope they do.

The next day we were off and rolling, hoping to make it to Kansas City, Kansas, to stay for the night before crossing into Missouri.  On the advice of T-Roy, we set the GPS for Lawrence, Kansas, home of the Kansas University Jayhawks, as our lunch stop.  Did I mention the humidity already?  You could wring the three of us out like a sponge and our riding suits ready to walk by themselves.  Ick.  We were ready for some lunch and a very cold beer.  And what a really cool downtown Lawrence was!  Reminded me of Davis with that university, small town feel.  Thanks, T-Roy!  We parked in front of a hotel and on the advice of a local, headed across the street to the local brewery.  Perfect.  Beer AND air conditioning.  After a while, we each admitted that we were pooped and tossed around the idea of staying in Lawrence for the night.  But Kansas City was only about 35 miles away!  Doesn’t matter.  You couldn’t get me back in that suit right now for anything.  We Googled the local hotels and found a historic place right on the main drag.  AND, we were already parked right in front!  Score one for unpacking.  Once again, we unloaded our gear onto the bell cart and headed to the third floor.  Nice place!  Reminded me of a Kimpton hotel.  We left Jack in the room to some iPhone games while we took the bikes around the corner to park in the lot.  But what’s this?  A parking ticket on each bike?  But we paid!  There’s still time left on the meter!  Three dollars each, please.  And look, you can put the money in the envelope and deposit it right into any of the handy yellow boxes that lined the street.  I smell a scam.  This was confirmed by more than one of the locals.  They ticket you for everything.  Nice welcome wagon.  We moved the bikes and promptly headed to the hotel bar for a belt and some advice on the hap’s that night in Lawrence.  A jazz quartet was playing downstairs in the bar/restaurant that night.  Are kids allowed?  Yes.  Looks like we have our evening planned.  Nice and low key.  We headed downstairs around 7PM, Jack toting his guitar, just in case.  In case of what?  Don’t know, but he likes to bring it along when there’s live music to be had.  The group consisted of drums, stand up bass, guitar and trumpet.  And they were good.  We slowly made our way to a table close to them so Jack could get a better view of the gang.  After a couple of breaks, the band resumed once again, this time asking Jack if he wanted to come on up and play with them.  Now, as a parent, how cool is that?  OF COURSE he’d like to come on stage!  Up he went, confidant as ever, and strummed along with the guys, the bass player shouting the chords out to Jack with each change.  He was in his element.  But hey, there’s an open mic night just down the street after this.  A couple of the guys and special guest, Mr. Mustard (don’t ask), were heading down soon.  Did we want to bring Jack so they could all play together?  Hell ya!  So, at 11:30PM on a very humid night in Lawrence, we took Jack to his first open mic experience.  Terry signed him up at the door with hopes of Jack and the guys going on soon, bedtime and all.  But the guys weren’t there yet and they wanted Jack to go on in 10 minutes.  Little man began to panic ever so slightly.  But the boys rolled in before true panic could ensue.  They all trekked on up, Jack in tow, Mr. Mustard at the mic.  Jack perched himself on the barstool and took the lead as man in charge.  Restaurant lights dimmed, stage lights on, he was the man of the hour.  I cried.  How could I not?  Proud.  Proud.  Proud.  They took Jack’s lead that eventually led them to a fabulous rendition of Eleanor Rigby.  The guys LOVED it!  All were smiling, laughing, enjoying the moment.  I cried some more.  When their time was up, Jack hopped down, beaming proudly, surrounded by other musicians who came to play.  They patted him on the back and gave him praise like you wouldn’t believe.  These are the moments he’ll never forget.  Hell, WE’LL never forget.  All were impressed with his talent and maturity on stage.  I finally stopped crying.  I looked down at my watch – almost 12:30!  Yikes!  Time for bed, Clapton.  Yawn.  We made our way to the hotel and poured ourselves into bed.  What a night.  I couldn’t stop smiling.

So, class, what have we learned today?  If you don’t take a chance and put yourself out there, you may never GET another chance.  You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.  You may make an ass out of yourself once in a while, but at least it makes for a great story.  Trust me, I used to hate change.  I loved the usual.  It wasn’t until Jack was born that I realized I needed to do something for him, to better myself, to explore beyond my usual.  And I liked it.  And now, I crave it.  Monotony is my kryptonite.  Promise yourself to take a chance.  Start with small steps; it makes the transition easier.  Just move forward.  Take care of yourself and you’ll be better at taking care of those you love.  Cheers.

“Do one thing every day that scares you.”  Eleanor Roosevelt

I know, I know, I’m so behind on my entries.  But you must realize, I’m riding 5-7 hours a day, unpacking the gear, setting up camp or checking into a Holiday Inn Express, searching for the best/least offensive meal and dealing with a hot, crabby 8 year old.  I do apologize for my tardiness, but there are days I’d rather lay down with a cold brew and watch the latest “Still in Theaters” flick.  Haven’t done that yet but, dammit, I’m gonna!  And now, to spew forth with our final days in Colorado…

Early morning in Grand Junction, CO, and we (as always) have our faces buried in weather.com.  Remember those nasty wind gusts?  We’re trying to make sure they don’t come sneaking back to take us down.  Evil, evil wind…  Packed up, laundry done, and with bellies full of the free toast & peanut butter breakfast at the hotel, we set forth east on Highway 70.  Destination?  Breckenridge, but that could change.  We only had about 160 miles to go, but we may want to burn some extra just to get further out.  I knew the stops I wanted to make along the way.  My heart was set on Vail.  Why?  My first memory of even HEARING of Vail was at Comstock Junior High.  A toe-headed kid named Andy walked into my geography class sporting a Vail t-shirt.  “What’s Vail?” I asked.  Andy proceeded to regale me with stories of a small town tucked in a valley surrounded my mountains of snow and skiers making their way through the village, telling tales of the days’ runs down the slopes, sipping hot beverages and waxing their K2’s.  I knew someday I wanted to see it for myself.  But it’s summer…and there’s barely any snow…but there’s a village and a severe lack of tourists this time of year.  I’m in.

Highway 70 through the middle of Colorado is a dream ride as far as highways are concerned.  Turning, swaying and loooooong tunnels that echoed just right when you honked the horn.  Come on, you know you do it, too.  We were literally riding along the bottom of a very, very narrow canyon, surrounded by sheer mountain drops, passing through ski villages boasting mountain bike trails and things you don’t need.  But, why is the traffic stopping?  WHY?  I’m enjoying the ride and this REALLY cuts into my down time!  Yup, we were completely stopped smack in the middle of one of those cute little villages.  We sat for a bit, sweating too much, eyeing the people splashing in the roadside hotel pool.  This sucked.  Terry and I both had the same idea and the same moment.  The shoulder’s clear and if we don’t get some airflow going soon, his bike will overheat.  Yes, boys and girls, we’ve became those assholes on motorcycles who ride the shoulder during stopped traffic.  Seriously, it’s no joke about Terry’s motorcycle!  We hit the right blinker, scoot over and made our way down the right shoulder, Terry’s flashers on, my head buried in the rearview for signs of a light bar.  Man, this was a long line of pissed off drivers!  We swerved around road signs, still checking for pork, making our way to the source of said backup.  And what were they doing?  Oh, spraying down the inside of the tunnel and striping the right lane shoulder.  Huh?  All that for a line and a clean tunnel?  Whatever.  I’ve got some time to makeup.

Vail, only a couple of miles ahead.  And thanks to Shane for telling us the proper exit.  We pulled off the freeway and into a Swedish wonderland.  Nestled at the base of a mountainous valley, Vail was a long, narrow world of European style buildings, flower-lined streets and friendly people.  It was just as I’d hoped.  The main town center was closed to traffic.  We parked 1/2 block away and meandered our way town the cobblestone street in search of an outdoor lunch spot and a cold beer.  Found it!  With a table on the patio at a little German-style place, we sat in awe of the beauty this place held.  It really was all that Andy had said, minus the snow.  We finished our burgers and brew, took some pictures and geared up, a crowd of people gathering to watch from the sidelines.  Always a pleasure.  Back on 70, we continued east but started to rethink our destination plan.  As much as I wanted to check out Breckenridge, I was afraid that we needed to get some miles in.  We’re skipping Breckenridge and heading straight for Denver!  Done.  Decision made.  And, they have a Kimpton hotel in downtown Denver, the Hotel Monaco.  Never stayed at a Kimpton joint?  I highly recommend the experience.  Look them up!  It’s worth the extra couple of dollars for a late-day wine reception and European design.  But were the Rockies going to be in town?  I hope so.  I’ll have to look into that one a little later.

With the bellhops scratching their heads at the site of us, we unloaded each bike in front of Hotel Monaco in downtown Denver, just 2 blocks from the 16th Street Promenade.  The inside of the hotel boasted a Tim Burton-esque style with a splash, just a splash, of old Europe.  It was perfect and the little bit of spoiling we were searching for after so many days on the road with bad weather.  And we arrived just in time for the free wine and hors d’vores from 5-6PM.  Timing is everything!  So, there we stood with the hoitie’s and the toitie’s, sipping wine, reflecting on the past couple of days and looking to swipe a bottle to bring upstairs.  We didn’t.  Karma.

What I did do was scope out some “Man vs. Food” restaurants in the area.  Lo and behold, there was the ‘7-pound breakfast burrito in under an hour’ joint, Jack-n-Grill.  Jack and I did our best to get Terry to attempt this eating challenge and Man!, he really thought about it on the ride over in the cab.  We pulled up to a very colorful, packed almost full eating joint.  It was obvious that this place held a special place in Denver’s heart.  It was booming with locals seeking to savor more of what the menu had to offer and tourists hoping to catch a glimpse of the next food challenge sucker.  After a scan of the menu, Terry decided against trying the challenge.  What?!?  You’re here, man!  Give it a go!!  Why not?  Oh please, don’t let a dozen-eggs-per-burrito scare you.  Come on!  Don’t let a case of the exploding colon’s scare you either! You know what, I don’t blame you.  We DID order some of the best Mexican grub we’d ever eaten.  It was fresh and flavorful with a side salsa that was just so tasty!  No “regular” ingredients were used for this particular flavor.  I’m still trying to put my finger on it.  I’ll get there, I promise.  After our delicious meal, I took a walk around the restaurant to their “Hall of Fame” wall in search of Adam’s picture.  Not only did I find his pic, I found about 60 others who had finished the behemoth burrito, including several females of varying age and size.  I’m talkin’ SKINNY girls!  One other thing this place boasted was that if your name was Jack and you provided a copy of your birth certificate, you will eat free for the rest of your life!  Dude, had I known, I’d of packed Mr. J’s and PROUDLY handed it over.  “Sorry, son, you’re going to college in Denver.  Why?  Because your meals are paid for.”  Ta da!  A stroll down the 16th Street Promenade after was just what we needed after a belly full of tasty grub.  It reminded Terry and I both of a smaller, cleaner San Francisco.  Because traffic was closed in either direction, with only a shuttle bus running from one end to the other, each block was outfitted with several chess tables, benches and a piano.  A piano?  Yup!  Each piano was painted up in beautiful colors, a different theme for every block.  And every piano was singing the song of a different musician.  Random people pulled up the bench and played jazz to Mozart, blues to rock.  How could you not love such a scene?  Dug it.

Our last full day was not going to be complete without one thing – Rockies game!  Yes, the Colorado Rockies were in town playing the Milwaukee Brewers and you KNOW we had to take in a major league game while in town.  After a day of people watching and Toy Story 3, we geared up in our new Rockies t-shirts and rode the bike taxi to the game.  Poor Scott!  Scott, our bike dude, had us 3 stuffed in his “cab” and it was a nice, warm night out.  Of course, I packed a backpack full of sweatshirts, anticipating the usual Bay Area breeze or roll of fog.  Didn’t happen.  Wrong city.  But the ballpark was really, REALLY nice!  Now I see why the A’s are rallying for new digs.  Everything was modern, there were no huge ramps to trudge up and the food choices ranged from Mexican to BBQ to usual ballpark fare.  I was impressed.  So was Jack.  We didn’t get any foul balls, but that’s okay.  We had a great night at the park and didn’t get even a bit chilly.  Next time, I’ll know not to pack for that just-in-case fog roll.

Reluctantly, we packed up the next morning in search of camping in Rocky Mountain National Park.  I know, it’s a BEAUTIFUL place to land, but we really enjoyed Denver.  Promises to return in the future.  I informed Terry that we had to get there via Boulder.  ANYONE who’s anyone KNOWS that Mork and Mindy lived in Boulder!  Come on!  Rainbow suspenders, Shazbot!, getting eggs to fly, Nano nano, Robin Williams whacked out on coke…it’s a classic scene!   God, I loved that show as a kid.  And now here we were, stuck in traffic in downtown Boulder.  Weee.  Next!

We began the winding climb through the lower Rockies.  Now THIS was a motorcycle road, if only that damn trailer would pull over!  Breathe, Sandy, breath…you’re on a trip.  Relax, enjoy, take it in.  And I did.  The view with every turn proved more beautiful than the last.  Tahoe-style homes dotted the mountainside every couple of miles.  And the smell, you ask?  It reminded me of Shasta, but a strong stench of exhaust was beginning to ruin my groove.  As much as I’ve always wanted to visit this wondrous place, I had to remember that we didn’t exactly choose the ‘right’ time to visit.  Think Yosemite in the summer.  Got that mental image?  Ya, I was livin’ it.  But, I’m here to take it on my terms, collectively our terms, and come away with memories of our own creation.   So, away we go!

We went through Estes Park, basically the gateway into RMNP.  Damn!  It was worse than Sonoma during harvest!  The tourists (fat, dude, FAT!) were just going from store to store to store buying crap they didn’t (and probably made in China), meandering along, blah, blah, blah.  Not a whole lot of happy looks on the husband’s faces (aka Poor Bastards).  Just a lot of lollygagging and sensible shoes, neither of which I subscribe to.  Onward.  We passed the KOA Park that was perfectly lined with motorhomes and trailers, not a tree in sight but a view of a mountain.  Onward.  Ah, the entrance to the park in 1 mile.  Let’s try for that last minute campsite.  We rolled up to the park dude in the little box, handed him our national park membership and asked if there were any state campgrounds that were not full.  Hmmmm, nope!  All lower campgrounds were full.  Okay, Plan B.  And what was that?  Ride up to each campground and see if they had any cancellations.  It was worth a try!  No cancellations?  Ride around the campground and look for that lone motorcyclist and see if you can “bunk” with them for the night.  The worst they can say is no, and I’ve heard the worst.  I don’t like it.  The first campground we spotted was Moraine Park.  The very sweet looking girl in the wooden box peered out from under her ranger hat.  I asked, with a hint of desperation, if there by chance was a cancellation.  Lo and behold, my fellow adventurers, there WAS a cancellation for 1 night!  Timing, people, timing.  We originally wanted to stay for 2 nights, but who am I to question the karma bank!  And what was the site number?  Lucky #13 right by the bathrooms.  Not bitching just pointing it out.  As the boys set up the campsite, I headed into town to do laundry and find something to cook (singe) for dinner.  I’d spotted the laundromat and store earlier on the outskirts of town.  Oh thank god, I don’t have to go back to in the vat of tourists!  After 1 1/2 hours of domestic duties, I returned to find Jack playing with some other kids and Terry half asleep in the tent.  Poor thing, he had just fallen asleep when I rolled up.  He did his best to appear alert but instead just looked red eyed and a bit fuzzy.  On tonight’s menu?  Hot dogs, of course, with salad and fruit on the side.  Perfect.  I did end up hanging out with a bunch of parent’s and their little squirts that hailed from Ft. Collins, Colorado.   A very, very cool group who was more than happy to take me into their conversation.  You know how you don’t want to interfere just because your kid is playing with their kids?  Tinley was kind enough to widen the circle for me.  Thanks!  I was able to return the favor the next morning when I heard her husband proclaim, “We used up all the coffee yesterday morning.”  They had 2 very young kids that they’d been camping with for a couple of nights, so I KNEW the caffeine desperation level was at red line.  Peet’s Ground French Roast from California to the rescue!  I gave them the bag and they were very thankful.  I totally get the parent/kid/camping thing.  If I’d run out of Peet’s, I would’ve cried.  See, karma points!  We got the site for a night therefore I pay it forward.  It’s not hard; it’s just being human.

But before I did the coffee thing, I walked down about 3/4 mile to take some pictures of the mountains.  I knew we’d be shoving off today, so I didn’t want to miss taking some shots of the grandeur that enveloped us.  If you haven’t been to Rocky Mountain NP, go!  But, just don’t go when it’s summer time…think Yosemite.  Too many people!  That was another reason we decided to stay one night.  We weren’t there to be surrounded by people; we were there to be AWAY from people.  Enough!  I did get some pretty stellar shots in the early morning light.  Hey, if I’m already awake at 5:30, I might as well use my time wisely.  Back to camp I trod, slowly.  See, I realized several years ago while attempting to summit Mt. Shasta that elevation is REALLY not a friend of mine…not at all.  I get altitude sickness, and I’d had a headache ever since Denver.  NOW I was even closer to the heavens and beginning to feel a bit queasy.  Not cool.  I had a feeling it might happen, so I had enough forethought to get some Dramamine at the pharmacy in Denver.  Aaaahhhh (tapping forehead with finger), thinking this time…  After a healthy dose of morning drugs, I began to feel better.  Not great, just better.  Time to jam.  We packed up our gear and gave a high sign to all the Ft. Collins group, with our sights set on McCook, Nebraska.  Why there?  They had a Holiday Inn Express.  AND, we couldn’t go any further because of the weather.  And what kind of weather had we not yet encountered?  Remember, we are in the Midwest by this point.  Guess you’ll just have to find out next entry…neener…

Flee the ordinary tomorrow.  It’s good for the head.  Trust me.  Healthy Head = Healthy Mind = Healthy Family = Healthy Marriage.  Everything’s a balance.  In every encounter, you are the only one that chooses how you react.  Can you learn from it?  Can you take a piece of it for future use?   I don’t know.  It’s your path.  I’m working on mine right now.  Are you?

“Do one thing every day that scares you.”  Eleanor Roosevelt

The adventure begins when things stop going as planned

I’m sitting outside the laundromat in Estes Park, Colorado, just one mile east of the entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park.  Yes, laundry is one of those mindless duties necessary on trips like this because, well, we smell.  But, it does give me time to reflect and spew forth the events of the past several days.  We’re already on day 9, and I’m doing my best to remember everything.  Maybe if I stopped sipping so much whiskey at night it might come easier.  Naaaaa…

I awoke the morning of day 6 six waaaaaaay too early.  I’m tellin’ ya, when the sun hits the tent, I’m up!  And these days, the sun is hitting at around 4:45AM.  Lovely.  I did manage to use the facilities (aka ‘Forest behind the tent’ – TMI!) and stumble back into bed for another 1 1/2 hours of not-so-blissful slumber.  The semi’s in the parking lot next door tend to wake a gal up, but I was too tired to let it really bother me.  Jack emerged earlier than I expected, around 7:45.  He and Terry slept in the same tent as it was “daddy’s turn” to share a bunk.  And our goal for this day?  Why the Delicate Arch, of course!  You know the arch.  It’s the one they use in EVERY SINGLE Utah advertisement.  Oooohhhh, that one!  No need to fully gear-up today as it was going to be quite warm and the park was maybe 5 miles away.  Off to breakfast at Zax for some much needed sustenance and away we flew with t-shirts, shorts, hiking boots and helmets as the day’s attire.  Oh yes, sunblock, too.

Man, what a gorgeous day!  It was going to be about 85 degrees and it was warming up fast.  The breezy ride in was a welcome air conditioner as we rolled our way through the entrance of the park.  Have you ever been to Moab let along Utah?  YOU MUST GO!  You don’t even need to take the 2-wheel transportation, just go!  The pillars and formations, colors and elevations make you feel so, well, insignificant.  You feel like a speck in a sea of giants.  We made the right to head towards Delicate Arch and followed a barrage of cars, minivans (Ick!) and motorhomes to the parking lot.  Jack was jonesin’ for a hike, so we decided to first go to the lookout spot.  Hmmmmm.  We’re pretty far away.  And I see people HIKING TO THE ARCH!  This spot is sooooo not good enough for me.  Come on, kids, we’re goin’ up!  But wait!  There’s a Suburban coming up a washy, dirt road.  Uh huh, you guessed it.  Strap in kids; it’s going to be a bumpy ride!  Terry, unfortunately, is unable to stand on the pegs as he has Jack on the back, but he’s a very good dirt rider so he shouldn’t have any problems staying in the saddle.  I, on the other hand, stood on the pegs and let that back tire squirm and sway with every rock and wash.  Man, what gleeful fun!  Remember, don’t touch that front brake or you’ll pull a Fowler!  Yes, dude, that one’s for you…  I led the ride, down a short wash, across larger rocks, through some sand puddles and finally came to a gate.  Must the ride end now?!?  A truck came up behind us and opened the gate, motioning towards us as if to ask, “Are you coming through, too?”  We weren’t sure what the deal was, but it did appear as if it was public land; they just wanted to make sure that the gate stayed closed when not in use.  Hmmmm.  Time for us to turn around and discuss our plans in the parking lot.  Back we went to the sea of tourists.  After a very brief discussion, we declared, “Fuck it!” and headed back down the dirt trail and past the gate.  Jack was kind enough to hold it open for us.  Quite the little gentleman.  He hopped back on with Terry and away we went seeking out more trail fun.  After about 1/2 mile, we rode up behind some people with their Ford Escape stuck in a very deep wash.  Ha ha!  Suckers!  You just know that car was a rental! It was high centered and not going ANYWHERE until they could dislodge it from the boulder.  The two chicks were outside rocking the top of the truck while the guys were inside doing whatever it is that guys do when they don’t want to get out of the car.  Sometimes it’s just fun to sit back and watch what happens next.  They finally got the truck to move forward and out of my way.  I was practically shaking at the chance to blast down and up the other side, especially when my bike was completely unloaded and light.  Well, 425 pounds light.  Down I went, ass over the back tire, choosing my path wisely, and gunned it up the other side, leaning over the handlebars and shifting my weight, as I got closer to the top.  Nice!  Can we do that again?  Well, we’re going to have to as the dudes got the car stuck AGAIN in another wash!  Way to go, fellas!  Maybe you should let the chicks drive and you can shake the car around.  And here I was, having to make an Austen Powers turnaround in a sea of sand about six feet wide and on a slope.  Forward a bit, back a bit, brake.  Forward a bit, back a bit, brake.  Rinse, repeat.  It took a while, but I managed to turn around.  There really was no alternative.  You mean I get to go down and up the wash again?  WEEEEEE!  So back to the parking lot we went in search of the trail that led to the arch.  I was going to hike there, dammit!  We didn’t ride all this way to pull a Griswold (think National Lampoon’s Vacation and the Grand Canyon scene…did ya get it?)

Up the main road a bit was the sign for the Delicate Arch trailhead.  Water?  Check.  Snacks?  You betcha.  Putting an 8 year old in charge of his Camelbak?  Not the smartest thing to do.  After about 1/2 mile into the 1 1/2 mile climb, Jack declared that his well runneth dry.  Delightful.  My Camelbak was about 3/4 full and had to cover Terry and I.  Now, I was the camel for all three Borden’s.  Time to ration!  No big gulps, please!  And man, you should’ve heard Jack BITCH the entire hike up, declaring, “I’m going to die!  My legs are SO tired!  I can’t do this…..BWAAAAA!”.  Those of you with kids know this tantrum.  You also know you’re ready to put them up on Craig’s List, if only you could get a signal on your fucking iPhone.  I just about left him, but Terry had the right head for Jack’s shenanigans.  I, on the other hand, did not.  This is why it takes 2 parents’ to parent.  Brooke and all you other single parent’s, I bow to you.  I don’t know how you do it.  We managed to lose the trail (idiots) but quickly found it to our left.  It was marked with Blair Witch statues, Ronni!  How did we miss that turn?  With only a little bit more to climb, Jack began to now jump from rock to rock.  Legs don’t hurt now, do they you little @*$&!  But the tears, the screaming, the lack of water was all worth the scene that unfolded before us as we made the last turn.  The arch stood majestically, so much larger than I could’ve imagined.  We all stood in awe for a while, taking in the view, appreciating what nature had to go through to create such a masterpiece.  I, too, was figuring out the best route to get to the arch.  You see, there’s a very sloped, slightly steep, red sandstone curve that you had to trek to get to the other side.  Not many people were doing it, especially after the dude standing next to us declared to all that “There’s a sign down there saying that people have died because they misjudged the steepness”.  Thanks, buzz kill, but I’m goin’ in!  Like I said before, I didn’t come all this was just to look at it.  I needed to touch it, sit under, take it in.

I took my time in assessing the best way to tackle the curve and slope.  Fortunately, I brought my Asolo’s, my most trusted hiking boots.  Grippy.  Terry hung back with Jack while I drank the Kool Aid first.   I made my way around, being careful not to run due to sheer excitement, and reached out with my left hand to touch nature’s gift.  It was worn from years upon years of weather.  It wore varying shades of red as well as yellows and white’s.  It was huge!  I sat under it in its late day shadow, marveling.   Lucky for me, those fools on the other side were too afraid to make the trek.  I welcome a challenge as the reward is always worth the effort.  I motioned for Terry and Jack to join me.  We sat in awe, scanning the 180 degree view of the valley, pointing out the dirt road we had just rode and taking in the visual candy.  Words and pictures will not do this marvel justice.  Guess you’ll just have to go see it for yourselves.  I dare you.

After about 20 minutes of awe, we decided it was probably a nice idea to leave so others could take pictures without our sweaty bodies in them.  Heavy sigh.  Time to leave.  But that’s okay; we were here.  We got to take in a wonder of nature.  Back down we strode, making sure to stay on the trail this time.  As we made our way down, I noticed all the fools who didn’t bring enough water/food/sunblock/babysitters.  Child complaining now?  Wait a couple of minutes.  Good luck with that.  Our bikes welcomed us with toasty helmets and scorching seats.  Time to rehydrate and grab some grub.  After a stop at the visitor’s center for water, we headed back into town for food then back to camp.  But wait!  The night is still young!  A walk for ice cream was necessary after such an accomplishment.  We found gelato (even better) at a local brew house filled to the doors with tourists bearing sensible hairdos and sandals with socks.  Classic.  We finished our gelato OUTSIDE and headed back to camp.  But what is that we spy to our left but a GO KART TRACK!  I’m in!  But let me first set the scene for you…

Okay, close your eyes and think back to Star Skate in the 80’s; carpeted walls laden with black light popping planets and stars, the wall lined with all the latest video games, your favorite song FINALLY being played for all-skate.  Now, imagine if you will, they never, EVER vacuumed, fixed the games or picked up a sponge!  Dude, you should’ve seen this place.  Mr. Clean could retire on this place.  But it all made sense when you met the cat who ran the joint.  He was a tad filthy in a slightly homeless kind of way.  He did have teeth, but only half of them.  No, no, I don’t mean he was missing some; I mean that half of each tooth was rotted and a delicate shade of coffee grounds brown.  Splash in a 5 second delay every time he answered a question and ladies and gentlemen, you have our host for tonight’s festivities!  We’ll just call him Cooter.  Ol’ Cooter had 5 cars total, 3 of them working.  Cooter also thought to hang a fabulous array of Christmas lights around the track.  To start said working cars, well, just think lawn mower.  But hey, for $5 a head, we’re still in!  And Jack didn’t care about the place; he just knew he got to drive a car all by himself.  He led Terry and I around and around, never once crashing his car.  And this kid has his foot in it all the way!  Good boy.  We rode for a good 10 minutes till Cooter noticed we were still there.  Good boy.  We walked out of there laughing, enjoying our experience, knowing there was a great story to be told.  Back to camp we skipped and climbed into our respective tents.  Nighty night.

Morning came too early.  We packed our camp, chatted a bit with the Canada girls, and headed out for breakfast.  With destination Grand Junction, Colorado, on the GPS, we took the road less traveled, twisting and turning along Highway 128.  It was like driving along the bottom of the Grand Canyon.  Terry and I felt puny being as we rode past  mile high walls of rock and sandstone.  We paralleled the Colorado River for most of the ride, honking and giving ‘thumbs up’ to all the long- range cyclists along the way.  But, it was starting to get a bit breezy.  And that statement turned into the understatement of the day!  Once we hit Highway 70, we weren’t but 60 miles from Grand Junction, but dammit, the wind!  We rolled into the Holiday Inn Express just in time.  Not 1 1/2 later, Terry called me to the window to check out the scene.  Was it raining?  I don’t remember seeing that on weather.com.  Nope, not rain!  It was a full-on dust storm.  With trees at a 90-degree angle, a wall of sand and dirt rolled its way across the town, completely eliminating any view of the buildings not 100 feet away.  Man, did we get here in time!

Did I mention why we stayed in Grand Junction?  To see Shane, of course!  Shane is an old friend from back in the day that we haven’t seen in over 10 years.  All of us used to hang in Santa Rosa and jet ski at Lake Sonoma together.  We moved, Shane moved, lost contact, reconnected via FB and BOOM!, here we are rolling through his town.  You know how cool it is to see someone after so long and they haven’t changed a bit?  That is Shane!  Awesome.  He picked us up at the hotel (in the same white Dodge truck he has in S.R.) and we jetted over to a BBQ restaurant, Famous Dave’s.  I decided that we had to order the trash can lid dinner.  Huh?  See, it’s a meal that serves 4-5 people, boasting an array of BBQ and sides, all neatly served in the lid of a metal trash can.  I mean, duh.  How can you NOT order that?  After filling our guts, Shane drove us around Grand Junction, showing the sites and eventually ending up at his place to continue the chat.  Once 9:30 hit, I hit the wall and needed to get to bed.  After he dropped us off, Jack and I headed up while Terry stayed down to continue catching up with his friend.  It was a great night with promises to stay in touch and see each other whenever we’re in the other’s backyard.  Thanks, Shane, for staying you.

Well, folks, there you have it!  Whew!  So much to tell and so few opportunities to put it into words.  Any of you making you plans to flee yet?  Why not?!?   Come on, it’s fun!  You get to know your family in such a different way.  There are a few moments you’d like to hop the next Greyhound home, but those are the moments you need to step back, take a deep breath, and learn how to maybe deal with the person or situation in a different manner.  We all are always learning.  If you aren’t, then you’re doing “life” wrong.  Cheers for now and more to come hopefully sooner rather than later.  Now go!

“Do one thing every day that scares you.”  Eleanor Roosevelt

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