Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Side Road

There’s something about long, straight, monotonous roads that drives me crazy. I can stay on them for a while, but, eventually, I just have to find something interesting to look at, and out come the maps or smartphone. 

Such was the case, last Monday, July 21, 2014 when I was riding back from Louisiana to Colorado. I decided to cross the panhandle of Oklahoma and enter Colorado through Springfield. About an hour west of Woodward, OK I had enough of straight roads and decided to head west to see the highest point in Oklahoma, Black Mesa.

When I got to Boise City, OK out came my smartphone and I altered my route to follow OK 325 through Black Mesa and NM 456 west towards Raton. According to google maps, NM 456 followed a river in places and it looked like fun.

 NM 456 was much more interesting than the straight prairie roads in the Oklahoma panhandle, although not well trafficked. At one point I passed a group of ranchers, and they were really waving. A couple of them were even standing on the bumpers of their trucks waiving. I waved back and thought, wow how friendly was that!

 I was riding along, enjoying the curves and scenery, when the pavement came to an abrupt end. A sign on the side of the road said the gravel continued for the next two miles. I figured I could handle the gravel rather than turning back to the road that would route me south-west to Clayton, NM. After all, the crossroad was aways back. Big mistake! 

After what seemed like four or five miles of varying unpaved road conditions, there was more pavement. Yippee! ..and just as soon as the pavement appeared, the wash-boarded dirt and gravel road swallowed it up again.

Spots of disappearing pavement was enough to make me stop and get out the good old map. There it was, right on the map, an unpaved road. I could not tell for certain how far the unpaved road went, and did not know how accurate the map actually was, but it looked like about another ten miles. It started raining. Fortunately, it was a light rain. I decided to brave the rain rather than turn back around. The unpaved road couldn't continue on much further.

Up ahead there it had really rained. In places there was free running water on the side of the road or it coursed  right through the middle of the road. Did I mention the road was also clay? Yep, covered in gravel in some places, but bare and soggy in others.  Wet clay and cruisers don’t mix too well. Wet clay is very slick, and in spots it was hard keeping the bike from sliding out from under me. I was going to be very sore on Tuesday.

A dual sport rider passed me waiving tentatively. I imagined the bemused smile underneath his full faced helmet. Next up were two old guys in a small station wagon. They asked where I was headed, and I told them Folsom, NM. They advised to be real careful up a head since the rain just went through. They thought the unpaved section was about twenty-one miles long. They also suggested my pink jacket was going to get covered in mud, and oh, by the way, get a Subaru. See ya!

Believe me, it was hard keeping my bike up on that wet clay. I stopped often to re-check the map and rest. I even peed right out in the open. After all, it wasn’t likely anyone would see me. I’d have plenty of warning if anyone was coming.

Finally the unpaved road ended. I had planned to stop in Folsom for gas, but decided to head north to Branson, and then west to Trinidad. There are no gas stations in Branson, CO. There is a very cool old jail, but no gas stations. It is about 9 miles north out of Branson, and then thirty-nine miles west to Trinidad. Sigh…I wasn’t in a big hurry to get home. Shoot, I just spent a couple of hours off-roading on clay. 

My smartphone did not show the unpaved section of road, or at least I did not notice it. Long straight monotonous roads drive me crazy!

I guess the moral of the story is, get out the tired old map in really unfamiliar territory. Ranchers waving vigorously might also be trying to tell you something! Did I mention that the river was dry? I rode into the gas station in Trinidad on fumes, but at least I got there!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Four Days, four states, 1200 miles, and one short day with NVAR

I took off from my home in Penrose, Colorado headed for Cheyenne, Wyoming around 8:30 in the morning on May 15, 2009. I wasn’t in any big hurry; I wanted to be in Cheyenne by 5:00PM to meet up with the northern route of the National Veteran’s Awareness Ride (NVAR). I figured I could cover the 200 miles between home and Cheyenne easily by three that afternoon.

NVAR is a group of men and women, who ride to raise awareness for all Veterans issues:

This is a 10 day ride from Sacramento, CA to Washington DC through the scenic Heartland of America which began in 2005. It was started as a way for us to bring attention to the following issues:

· POW/MIA's.

· Remembering Veterans and their families.

· Educating the younger generations about the cost of Freedom

· Promoting healing for all veterans


It was beautiful that morning and around 70°F, but winds were gusting fairly strong along the I-25 corridor. When I stopped in Longmont for lunch, a man getting out of the car next to me asked if the winds bothered me. I told him, “They do today.” He was from out east, Massachusetts I think, and he said they didn’t have wind like Colorado’s. I didn’t get much of a break that day. The lady either blew around 20 mph to make me think I could rest, or she gusted to around 40 mph as if to say, “not a chance kiddo.” I was pretty beat up by the time I arrived in Cheyenne.

At 5:00PM I decided to try and find the Veterans home where the NVAR riders had stopped and instead ran into them in the hotel parking lot before they left for dinner at the VFW.

I met so many nice civilians and Veterans from all branches of the Armed forces that night, and the spaghetti dinner prepared for us by the VFW auxiliary was great! Some of the memorable characters were Mike and his brother Tom who don’t look at all alike. Mike is a great big giant of a man who gave me an original “Mike’s best bear hug” to welcome me. Mike rides a Goldwing Trike. His brother, Tom, rides a Harley which broke down the next day. (No Harley jokes lol…) Mike is a former Marine and I think Tom was in the Navy. There was Top, a former Marine, who gives soothing hugs but doesn’t hear real well; I don’t talk a lot until I get to know people, so it was OK that Top couldn’t hear me. I met another bear of a guy from the Cheyenne area, and we shared stories about our dogs. Jeff from Oregon was along for the ride and he is an Army Vet like me. Milo, who is also from Oregon, tries to ride with the group every year. Milo is the owner of the Rat Bike and Oregon Supply http://www.ratbikemilo.com. Milo beamed as I pulled up to the riders. His smile made me feel like I belonged to the group.

The next morning, after a wonderful breakfast at the American Legion, we left Cheyenne bound for Grand Island, Nebraska. It was about 37 °F, overcast, and drizzly. I was wearing a Silkie under my long sleeve t-shirt, a fleece, my leathers, and a rain jacket, but I still felt cold. I re-learned a lesson from a winter field problem in Germany. The Silkie was supposed to keep me warm but it also wicked the sweat away from my skin. After being in a warm building, and then riding at high speeds in the rain and cold, the moist layer over my skin was anything but warm. It was just like the time I crawled into the sleeping bag wearing my BDUs and long johns’ with the stove going all night in a GP Medium tent: sweaty skin and clothes in cold weather feels like ice!

The clouds and drizzle lifted by the time we hit North Platte, Nebraska for lunch. What a surprise that little town was! North Platte is the home of the 20th Century Veteran’s memorial. http://www.20thcvetsmem.org/ The memorial entrance, bronze statues, stone carvings, and the Walk of Honor which will house 8,000 commemorative bricks was magnificent and well worth seeing.

The North Platte Fire Department honored us with lunch at the memorial. I also met a woman reporter from the area who told me that each year a Nebraska group takes Veterans to the Wall in D.C. She said the Wall is a healing experience for many Veterans’.

Another seventy or more bikes were waiting for us at our gas stop in Kearney, Nebraska. There were so many young faces in the group, and it meant a lot that they wanted to join us on our ride to the Veteran’s Home in Grand Island, Nebraska.

As we rode into Grand Island, there was a huge American flag suspended from a crane that seemed to wave us into the city. There was another crane and flag waiting for us at the Veteran’s home. We got to visit with Veteran’s from World War II, the Korean War, and Vietnam. I met a Vietnam Era Veteran, Susan S. She is approximately my age, and it troubled me that she lives in the home. I know she is well cared for, but she has so many years left to live. I personally can not imagine spending the rest of my life in a nursing home. I bought Susan a NVAR baseball cap, and she was genuinely happy to receive the gift. Maybe next year I can talk to her a little more and find out how life led her to the Veteran’s home.

So often, women veterans are an after thought. Before I became a Veteran, I always thought of men when I heard the word “Veteran.” I think lots of people are the same way. I am rarely thanked for my service to our country. I served during Granada, and was at Ft. Bragg when the conflict broke out. I will never forget that morning. We were called in on a very early alert. Men from the unit were put in the gym to await deployment. There were NCOs at the pay phones outside the barracks to prevent us from calling home. The news of the conflict hadn’t yet reached the public. C-130s were having trouble lifting off at the air strip because they were so weighted down. I volunteered for deployment, but women were not deployed during the initial conflict. I think that morning; I really understood the oath I had taken when I was sworn into military service.

Women are much more active in forward support roles today than they were in the eighties. This year, the Northern route was dedicated to Michelle Long who rode with NVAR for several years. Michelle was a Helicopter Crash Rescue Medic, “until the load finally became too heavy to bear.” Michelle’s friends from Nebraska believe she suffered from PTSD as a result of what she saw as a medic. I wish I could have met Michelle! I know she is missed.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is usually associated with the trauma of war. Women veterans often experience the same symptoms, but often for a very different reason than their brothers. Nearly a third of female veterans report episodes of sexual assault during military service, while 71 to 90 percent report experiences of sexual harassment. In order to receive Veteran’s benefits for PTSD, Vets must complete extensive documentation. If you are a combat Veteran, the task, though tough, is easier to prove than a sexual assault or harassment experienced by a woman veteran.

I wanted to ride with NVAR to Freedom Rock near Des Moines, Iowa on Sunday. When I met the riders for breakfast Sunday morning, I was honored that I was asked to ride in the Mission Man position. It saddened me to explain that I needed to turn back around. I had to be back to work Tuesday morning. I knew I was heading back into some very strong headwinds and I was tired. I never sleep well in motels, and I didn’t want to add the extra distance from Iowa to my journey. So, with great regret, I left my new friends and headed back to Colorado.

My ride back to southern Colorado took me to the center of the United States which is one mile north-west of Lebanon, KS, the George Washington Carver memorial near Ness, Kansas, and Granada, Colorado. I located the graves of my great grandfather and grandmother, and my great uncle and aunt, at the Granada Cemetery.

I hope to ride all the way to the Wall from Cheyenne with NVAR next year, and provided I can save enough vacation time and money, I will ride all the way from coast-to-coast with them at some point in the future.

Chrome Sirens

My husband has an unnatural attraction to chrome. If it shines or sparkles, he wants it, and it usually ends up on his bike. His affinity for gleaming things also entices him into decisions I would like to think he normally wouldn’t consider.

The former owner of my bike gave me a chrome air stack he purchased for the bike. I had no desire to use it, and it sat in its little box forgotten in the shed. It was forgotten until my husband and I cleaned the shed last weekend.

When Curtis found the stack, it was like he won the lotto. He couldn’t wait to get it on the bike. Unfortunately, the foam filter and screws for the stack were missing. I contacted the vendor trying to get the proper filter, but received no reply to my e-mail. I mentioned the fact that I could not find the replacement filter to my husband, but he apparently didn’t hear me.

This morning Curtis decided to ride into the city with me for his bike’s scheduled service. He grabs something black and somewhat triangular in shape. It turns out to be the old plastic air intake cover for his bike. He said he created his own foam filter for the stack. I thought he left the old air filter in place as well so I was not terribly concerned.

We turned onto the highway and everything was fine until we were going up a hill and I passed a semi with a loaded trailer. Curtis was lagging way behind me. It is not unusual for him to stop and tend to something and then catch back up with me. When I did not see him in my rear view mirror, it occurred to me that he might have to change out the air stack with the original OEM air cover. I had to get to work, so I kept on going.

I got to work and called him. By then, he was in the truck and on the way to borrow a trailer to take the bike the rest of the way to the city. Then he tells me that he took the original air filter out of the bike. In its place, he put a piece of screen, a rag in the inner chamber of the stack, and left his home-made foam filter in place in the outer chamber of the stack.

I knew what was coming next couldn’t be good! I think I quit breathing momentarily as he said, “it sucked everything right into the bike: screen, rag, and foam.” Believe me, I wanted to cry. Even a little old girl knows not to do something like that. When I asked him why he didn’t leave the old filter in place he said it was dirty. This is the same man who keeps cleaning the truck’s air filter with his air compressor for as long as possible to keep from buying a new one.

Fortunately, the bike’s engine was not damaged. I could not resist calling him later today to ask him if the service manager kept a straight face when he told him what he did. I will have to mosey into the Victory dealership soon to find out what Curtis actually told them. The latest Curtcapade has to be on their wall of shame!

Friday, May 29, 2009

Cruiser Customizing

Check out Cruiser Customizing and join the community today. Cruiser Customizing is more than just a motorcycle accessory site, it is also a great community of bikers! There are some great stories, great weekly tips, great motorcycle related reviews, great bargains, and plenty of stuff to add to your wish list for you and your iron beauty.

While you are there, check out my profile too.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

We Did It!

$10,000.00 raised for the Susan J. Komen Foundation!


Thursday, October 11, 2007

20th Annual High Country Toy Run

Bikers riding two up in a procession stretching as far as you can see in both directions is an amazing site, especially when they have toys strapped to their bikes for children from El Paso and Teller Counties. The United States Marine Corp sponsored the 20th Annual High Country Toy Run on October 7, 2007. The weather chilled down from a high of around 80 degrees on Saturday to a chilly fifty or so the day of the ride, but the chrome on the bikes and the biker spirit of giving brought the temp up so many could ride without jackets.

Hundreds and possibly more than a thousand riders gathered at the Rocky Mountain Motorcycle Museum on north Nevada. Santa was there on his beautiful bike, and along with all of his biker helpers were Marines from Denver, soldiers from Fort Carson, and Boy Scouts selling raffle tickets.

After a short ceremony at the museum complete with the pledge of allegiance and a blessing by the Christian Motorcycle Association, the v-e-r-y long procession left headed for Cowboys on Academy Boulevard. We were escorted by motorcycle cops from the Colorado Springs Police Department on their speedy Honda 1100 sport bikes.

I was actually glad that I was about two-thirds of the way back in the procession. I got to see all of the people who had come out from their homes to wave and cheer us on and the riders in front and behind me. Watching the motorcycle cops riding around 70 MPH in the left lane was a lot of fun too. When we reached Cowboys there was a nice $5.00 meal and great stuff for the raffle and auction.

We left early hoping to get out of town before the rain storm that was moving in. We got a little wet, and it was chilly, but we had a great time and will attend the ride again next year.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Mountain Shadow Riders Seventh Annual Breast Cancer Awareness Ride

The day started out beautifully. It was already seventy degrees when I left the house at 7:30 AM bound for Colorado Springs on 115. The temp was uncommonly warm for an October 6th morning in Colorado. It is also my mother’s birthday; today she would have been seventy-five. This year I decorated my bike’s windshield with pink ribbons and a picture of mom, and I attached a pink feather boa to the antenna.

Thirty years ago in 1977, I stood in Mom's hospital room while she denied that she had breast cancer. She didn't know that I had already spoken with her doctor, and he was pretty sure the lump he biopsied earlier that day was malignant. I was expecting twins and my beautiful but stubborn mother was determined she would shield me from the journey she was
about to take. Mom was only forty-four at the time. She had a radical mastectomy, and there was quite a bit of lymph node involvement discovered in the tissue they removed. The doctors predicted mom probably wouldn't live longer than another two years. My mother was strong though, and after several years of chemo therapy and radiation she won her fight against cancer. Unfortunately, chemo therapy can be hard on the heart, and I believe it contributed to her death from heart disease one month to the day after her birthday in 1993.

Breast Cancer has touched the lives of almost every member of Mountain Shadow Riders, and every year the members spend roughly five to six months preparing for the annual Breast Cancer Awareness ride. This year over two hundred riders attended our "Test Your Memory Run."

This year's route took the riders from Western Omelet on the
west side of Colorado Springs in old Colorado City, to Larkspur, through Black Forest, out to Falcon and back to the Dublin House at the north end of the Springs. The route was just under 100 miles, and while the weather was beautiful, it was windy.

Last bike in was at 3:00PM, with the post ride auction and ceremonies concluding at around 5:00PM. A lot
of beautiful people attended the ride again this year.

The members of Mountain Shadow riders will know this Saturday, October 13, 2007, how much money we earned for the Susan J. Komen Foundation. Our goal was 7500.00 and it sounds like we may have passed that amount.