Google+ Two-Wheeled Tourist: 2009


Garmin Zumo 550: Long-Term Motorcycle GPS Review

The Garmin Zumo 550, a portable GPS (Global Positioning System) unit, was released by Garmin several years ago. Marketed as a "rugged, motorcycle-friendly" device, this product fulfills the needs of motorcycle riders who needed a GPS for both commuting and long-distance trips but were concerned with potential damage to their units due to weather and vibration from the motorcycle. I have personally used this device on a daily basis for two years and 50,000 miles, and during this time it has become an asset to me both as a motorcyclist and as a car driver.

Durability: The Zumo 550, is rated IPX7 waterproof, meaning that it can withstand "accidental immersion in one meter of water for up to 30 minutes" (from Garmin). In addition to that, the unit can withstand temperatures over 100°F and lower than 25°F. The Zumo runs just fine in torrential downpours, intense heat, and the freezing cold. During trips that I have taken where weather can fluctuate 50-60 degrees, the Zumo has not failed, powered down, or stopped operating. Along with this, the unit powers up, time and again, through miles and miles of travel attached to my motorcycle. It has withstood the vibration and battering from my 2007 FJR1300 and the daily commutes through the urban jungles of Los Angeles and the long, cross-country interstates. This durability is wonderful when the unit is accidentally dropped, too. Being my clumsy self, I am glad that this Zumo is not fragile at all. Also, direct sunlight does not affect its UV-resistant screen; I can still read its display during the very sunny days. However, I do have an additional plastic screen cover on top of it just for a little more protection on my investment.

In fact, the Zumo 550 can be seen mounted on the BMW R1200GS Adventure motorcycles of Charley Boorman and Ewan McGregor in their pan-African documentary, "Long Way Down."

Easy to mount on motorcycle: The Zumo 550 comes with everything you need to have it running right out of the box. The Zumo uses a custom cradle and the RAM Mounting System, a very popular universal device mount. The mount can be attached either to a handlebar or your motorcycle's brake reservoir clamp. You can power the Zumo either by directly connecting to your motorcycle's battery or by using the Zumo's internal, rechargeable battery. I've went with the direct hard-wire route and have only had to replace the connection's fuse once in the last 50k miles. If you're using this device every day, constant power from the bike is the best option to keep it running.

Motorcycle-friendly controls: A distinct feature of the Zumo is that it possess five waterproof buttons: a power button and four function buttons. The four function buttons are located on the left side of the device (the clutch hand) so your right hand will never have to leave the throttle. Also, its touch screen is glove-friendly so poking at the screen with motorcycle gloves is possible. Buttons on the screen are also very large so choosing your options doesn't require perfect precision.

MP3 Player: The integrated MP3 player on the Zumo 550 has done away with my iPod. The Zumo has an SD (Secure Digital) card reader that accepts high capacity cards. I use a 4GB SD card that holds about 750 songs, and that's enough to get through a 6,000-mile ride and then some. The Zumo's cradle includes a heavy-duty, mini-stereo headphone jack that can connect to a pair of bud earphones (I use Skullcandy buds underneath my full-face helmet), an in-helmet headset, or motorcycle speakers. In some cases, I've been known to attach it to a guitar amp to listen to my XM radio while I'm doing maintenance on my bike. I will be discussing the XM radio feature next.

XM and Bluetooth Capabilities: Before the Zumo 550 was released, integrating XM radio on a motorcycle required a little imagination and a lot more devices to attach to the bike. Garmin has simplified this through the use of a special XM antenna. Like the GPS, this antenna is durable and weatherproof. It can be mounted anywhere on the motorcycle thanks to its strong, magnetic bottom or attached behind the cradle using a metal base, an optional accessory. This XM attachment costs about $250 and cannot be substituted with an regular XM, car mounted antenna. The reason for this is that the XM attachment IS the radio and the Zumo 550 only acts as the pass-through system.

The XM radio is excellent and can get a signal anywhere, provided that the XM attachment is exposed to the sky. I've been very satisfied with the combination of an XM radio and MP3 player; the music never ends. In addition, having access to XM's traffic reports is an important tool during a daily commute or when entering an unfamiliar city.

Another feature that comes in handy is the Zumo 550's Bluetooth option. You can connect your phone to the Zumo, enabling you to make and take phone calls using the GPS' touchscreen. However, you will need an additional microphone accessory to talk on the phone; there are several companies that make this. Otherwise, this feature can be simply used as a caller ID device.

Bike-to-Car Portability: The Zumo 550 can be used in the car, too. Along with a motorcycle cradle, Garmin also includes a suction cup mounted car cradle with an external speaker for voice-assisted directions. So, if it's snowing and you can't take your bike, take the Zumo in the car with you!

USB Connectivity: Updating and adding files to the Zumo is relatively simple. When plugged via USB cable into a regular PC, the GPS is read as two separate devices: the GPS' internal memory and the SD card's slot. This makes it very easy to upload songs, pictures, routes, and other files onto the unit.

Accessories: Theft is a big concern for GPS owners and even more so for motorcyclists because the device is always out in the open. Unfortunately, the included cradle and mount for the Zumo does not have any locking capabilities, forcing a rider to remove the Zumo when leaving the motorcycle unattended. RAM offers a locking version of its attachment arm and Touratech has a cradle clamp that makes the easy-to-remove cradle latch inaccessible to a would-be thief. I have both of these accessories mounted as well which allows me to leave the unit on my bike for longer periods of time.

If you're looking for that do-all GPS, this is definitely a great solution. However, it doesn't come cheap. A brand new Zumo 550 runs between $600-900, and if you're lucky to find its discontinued predecessor, the Zumo 450 (basically the same device without XM radio connectivity), it'll still run about $400-500. Additionally, this GPS is no longer sold at mainstream stores such as Best Buy so going online would be the best bet to acquiring this product.

Despite its made-for-motorcycle design, the Zumo 550 isn't perfect. There is a significant delay of finding GPS signals from a cold start (powering on) of up to several minutes. Additionally, it can take several minutes for the unit's MP3 player feature to load up songs, especially if a high capacity SD card is used. Lastly, typing an entry for a location or attempting to find nearby POIs (Points of Interest) on-the-fly will cause MP3 music to skip or stagger until the Zumo is finished processing your request.

Also, the MP3 player can only play MP3s. It cannot play WMA or AAC files so all music must be converted to MP3 or it cannot be played. There's also an "audio book" feature on the Zumo that I still haven't figured out how to use yet, and there's no mention of it in the user manual. That actually has been a concern of many Zumo users over the years and I wonder if Garmin has fixed that yet or given it any real functionality.

Lastly, there is still a lack of headsets and/or motorcycle mounted headphones that allow the use of both the audio and microphone outputs of the device. Companies such as Starcom sell in-helmet headsets, but they are quite pricey and require the purchase of their base systems to even deem them useful. I hope in the future that there will be a cheaper alternative that will make the Bluetooth phone connection feature of the Zumo more than just a fancy Caller ID.

The Garmin Zumo 550 is an excellent, but expensive, addition to your motorcycling experience. If you're a serious motorcyclist that needs a GPS, this is definitely one to consider if you're looking for durability and versatility. It's not perfect, but it does come pretty close to meeting your needs for getting directions and on-bike entertainment.

Garmin has released the Zumo 660, a smaller, fully touch-screen based unit that promises the same weather-resistant qualities in a sleeker case.

You can read about the Zumo 550 and Zumo 660 on Garmin's website @


Issues to Consider When Preparing for Your Long Distance Motorcycle Road Trip

Here's a small informational article I wrote a little ways back in regards to long distance motorcycle rides. For most people in the Midwest and East Coast, these guidelines may have to wait until the spring. Regardless, I still know no seasons when it comes to preparedness for a trip. Enjoy!

Check your tires for adequate tread and for any visible signs of damage. If tread is low or the tire is damaged, replace tires before departure. With normal use, a standard rear motorcycle can last between 8-10,000 miles and a front tire approximately 10-15,000.

Maintain good tire pressure. Check your tire specs for standard inflation levels. It is okay to add a few extra pounds of air; that helps with ride comfort, extends tire life, and increases fuel economy.

Flats can happen on the road. Be prepared and bring emergency supplies such as tire plugs and motorcycle-specific tire inflation foam. Better yet, prevention starts at home. Apply a tire sealant/protectant such as Ride-On® when the tires are new to instantly seal punctures in the center of the tire tread where they’re most likely to happen. Visit for more info on this product.

If you haven’t gotten that oil change or that major service, do it before your trip. A properly maintained bike is a more reliable bike. If your trip is more than 4000 miles (one-way), consider arranging for an oil change at a stop or switching to longer lasting synthetic oil.

If your motorcycle is chain-driven, bring a small can of chain lube. Ideally, a chain should be lubed every 600-800 miles. A little squirt every now and then will help the chain last longer and keep you on the road.

Ideally, luggage on a motorcycle should be mounted as low as possible and as balanced as possible. This will ensure that the motorcycle’s center of gravity stays low and that control of the bike is not compromised.

Straps and bungees are essential to keeping cargo attached to the bike when saddlebags/sidecases, sissy bar bags, tank bags/panniers, and tail bags aren’t enough. Make sure that all strapped cargo is attached firmly to the bike. Attaching points vary from bike to bike but make sure that where you attach doesn’t interfere with the bike’s normal operation. Consider load limits on your motorcycle’s mounting areas. Exceeding them may compromise your safety of cause racks and/or plastics to break.

Pack lightly. Limit the amount of luggage you are carrying. If you’re making frequent stops, consider using local amenities such as Laundromats and hotel sinks to wash clothes. Take what you need and select multi-functional gear to bring. Multiple uses for a single product makes the load a lot more compact.

Motorcycle gear, like weather, changes with the conditions. Do a little research and get the weather forecasts of your proposed destinations. Weather is also quite random. Prepare for weird instances of rain, hail, or snow. Bring the layers even if you think you don’t need them.

A couple things to remember: 1. Layers = flexibility and 2. Adjust accordingly.

The “perfect” outfit setup for you may change with time. Ride through various weather conditions to experiment with and adjust your equipment. Try different gloves, jackets, and combinations of clothing. See what fits and see what doesn’t.

Hydration: Get that H20 in you!
With the exception of a flat tire or mechanical failure, nothing will take you off the road faster than dehydration. Weather and distance will take a toll on you. Sharpness and awareness of surroundings begin to fade. The ride becomes arduous and taxing. Don’t let this happen to you.

Ideally, one should drink ½-1 liters of water every 125-150 miles, especially in hot weather. Frequent sipping from an ice-filled water backpack reservoir (Camelbak™) will keep your inner core cool. As an Iron Butt rider put it, “Drink so much water to the point that you have to pee at every gas stop.” Also, drink lots of water 24 hours before the start of your journey. This will get you used to this higher level of liquid intake.

Resting the Wrist
Does your right hand get tired after all those hours on the throttle? Help it out! There are several types of cruise assists ranging from the simple, yet effective CrampBuster ( to the mechanical Throttlemeister ( Find the one that works with you and install it on your bike. Your hands will thank you later.

Also, giving your driving wrist a stretch before you start riding will relieve a lot of the strain. A simple exercise is as follows: With your arm out in front you, place your right palm up, take your left hand and push the fingers of your right hand toward your body. Hold for 20 seconds, rest, and repeat. You should feel an easy stretch on the bottom parts of your wrist.
You went shopping on the road…now what? Have you run out of space on your bike for all those goodies? Ship them back home!

Many tourist stops provide means of shipping goods home. Often times you can use those services to ship unnecessary supplies or cargo ahead of you. If timed well, your shipped goods will meet you right when you arrive home!

The Road Isn’t that Lonely…
If you’re travelling by yourself and happen to be part of a national motorcycle organization (i.e. Women on Wheels®, BMW Motorcycle Owner’s Association, etc.), utilize your club’s nationwide member directory as a resource. Thousands of riders have voluntarily given their contact information for networking and also to provide services for travelers in need (i.e. tools, phone access, lodging, and in some cases, even towing). If you’re not part of a motorcycle club, join one! You’ll never know who you’ll meet.


Finding pockets of good weather to ride in.

Winter is upon us. Most of the Ohioans I talk to are quite optimistic about the season's temperatures with reassuring words such as, "It's only going to get colder" and "Hope you have a good coat because you'll freeze."

For the last week or so, my bike's been under a cover and hibernating. Then again, so have I. Temps this week have been in the low 20s, the point where road gutters have frozen into skateable surfaces, as seen from the example below.

On a serious note, sub-freezing point temps combined with prolonged rain can add an additional hazard to the motorcyclist because of the risk of slippery surface and in a worse-case scenario, black ice. If considering to ride in these conditions, some questions you may want to ask yourself can include:
  • Have ice warnings been put into effect in my area and my destination?
  • Has it rained/snowed continuously over several days?
  • What is the weather forecast for my destination and the points between?
  • Have I checked my motorcycle's tires, brakes, and controls (T-CLOCK)?
If you've answered these questions and deemed your journey to be feasible, bundle up with your favorite combination of safety gear and go for it! I am still adamant in keeping my FJR1300 out of winterization mode. Believe me, there will still be a pocket of good weather here and there. Look forward to it and ride on!


Long Distance Cold Weather Riding - Part Two: Your Motorcycle

I believe that successful cold weather riding is finding the perfect combination between the motorcycle gear that you're wearing and the motorcycle that you ride. What I mean by the latter is rigging your ride so that it does provide the best wind protection to help your layers effectively block out the cold, allowing you to continue riding longer. Here are a few general items to consider when preparing your motorcycle to go the extra mile in the chill. These accessories apply to any motorcycle and are very general.

Windshield: The windshield is probably the most effective motorcycle accessory for blocking out a good portion of the wind blast that comes from moving forward. Many motorcycles have windshields as a stock accessory and there are many companies such as National Cycle and Memphis Shades, to name a few, that can outfit your bike, regardless of shape or size. They also come in handy during summers when the bugs are larger than your head. Find the windshield that matches your height and riding style.

Seat: Keeping your butt from freezing to your seat can be an easy task with a sheepskin seat covering. Like the seat covers that are used in cars, natural sheepskin assists in temperature regulation and also helps to keep you dry by preventing water and moisture from pooling in the recesses of the saddle. I personally use the sheepskin pads made by Alaska Leather on my FJR1300. They make lots of sizes to fit the many types of seats out there and are definitely worth the investment. Did I mention that their fuzziness also adds a little plush as well?

Legs and feet: If you don't have the bike that has a decent amount of leg covering, some alternatives include leather engine bar covers, leg chaps, and leather leg gaiters. For the most part I've found that a combination of on-the-bike and worn equipment will help legs stay warm effectively. Unless you're riding a Goldwing-esque bike, this will always be a challenge.

Hand coverings: If you're the proud owner of a dual sport or enduro-style bike, there's probably a company that makes hard plastic hand guards for your model. Some possible alternatives to this extra layer above the gloves include ATV mitts and Hippo Hands. If you're using the removable type of hand covering, be aware that wind can push the fabric into the brake and clutch levers as that can activate them earlier than you'd want them to so please test them before riding.

Aside from typical luxury items such as a GPS or radio/MP3 player, these additional accessories can help make cold weather a lot more tolerable and your bike a lot more versatile. Don't forget to follow proper maintenance schedules, have fun, and ride safely!


Long Distance Cold Weather Riding - Part One: Outfitting Yourself

Nearly seven years of riding in CA has gotten me spoiled.

I was fortunate to have begun my motorcycling career in Southern California, a place where the weather is always tolerable and/or pleasant and the traffic made every freeway and street a jungle gym for two-wheeled vehicles. To touch on the first part of that last statement, preparing for a constant streak of truly "cold" weather (this definition will cover temps below 45°F, also known as a "state emergency" in Southern California) in combination with ATGATT (All The Gear, All The Time) never crossed my mind. Back at home, a normal ride would consist of throwing on all the gear and riding across the freeway with the breeze flowing through the helmet with any and every air vent on the jacket and pants wide open to prevent sweat. On some days, we Californians may have had to *gasp* put the liners in our mesh jackets. A tragedy to say the least.

Flash forward to a December in Central Ohio. While many motorcycles in my area have already been winterized and have begun their several months of hibernation, Matt and I are still riding our mechanical beasts for as long as the winter weather doesn't bring the snowfall. I am still a believer in riding year-round, although this adjustment to Midwest conditions will make this a slight bit more challenging. One of the largest hurdles in this accomplishment (and I emphasize that word, accomplishment, because it does take willpower to pull off what we do), is bundling up and riding against potentially painful cold winds and weather.

Earlier this week, Matt and I rode 600 miles in two days from Columbus to Urbana, IL and back. We had decided to ride because, well, it's cheaper, and weather forecasts stated that there was less than a 15% chance of any precipitation at all the major cities we would cross (technically, just Indianapolis, IN). In preparation for the run, we planned our riding gear and stops for this trip. I will try to break this down into "factors" we had to consider during this journey.

Windchill factor: The temperature in Columbus on the day of our departure was 37°F (and falling). That's before factoring in that we were maintaining a constant speed of 65-75MPH on I-70. This meant that the actual temperature we would be experiencing would be significantly lower than what my on-bike thermometer would read. I've pulled the wind chill chart from NOAA to show this point.
Using the table, 40°F in calm weather combined with a speed of 60MPH brings down the temperature to 25°F. Yeah, that's below water's freezing point.

Now, consider that our return to Columbus averaged approximately 25°F in calm weather. That combined with a speed of 60MPH brought the ambient temperature down to 3°F. So, our riding temperature range during this trip was anywhere from 25°-3°F at 60MPH. Since our speeds were, at times, reaching 70-75MPH (Indiana's speed limit is 70MPH), the range lowered even further to 19°-1°F.  That's what we were riding through for 600 miles. Holy crap, that's cold.

Constant exposure to cold temperatures: If this was a short, typical ride to work on I-270, dealing with 19° degrees (assuming freeway speeds) wouldn't be that bad. However, long distance riding also compounds the cold weather problem because you are exposed to a constant stream of wind, like getting locked in the giant dairy refrigerator room at Meijer with nothing but a polo shirt on.

As much as you bundle up properly, the equipment that you wear doesn't have time to defrost or warm up when it's being battered by the wind. So it's either doing one of two things: (1) keeping you insulated for the first 60-70 miles and then beginning to slowly refrigerate your appendages or (2) if it's electrical gear, trying to cancel out the cold by producing its own heat, leaving your body parts "comfortably" cold but not freezing.

Unfortunately, after the use of wind-blocking gear and thick, heat-conserving clothing, there aren't many solutions to steady refrigeration without resorting to heated gear and constant breaks. Of course, there are short-term solutions such as chemical heat packets as well. My personal strategy for defrosting was to take a break that was long enough to allow my gear to return to room temperature. That would give the gear more endurance against the effects of the cold until the next stop.

Insulation factor: As a veteran of four cross-country trips over 2,500 miles (as of 2009), I've learned that having a wide selection of gear to mix and match makes riding in any possible condition more comfortable and increases ride confidence and stamina. In this situation, I thought about my gear and came up with this pretty effective combination for this winter riding. Please keep in mind that some of this gear has been in my collection for a while; these were not whim purchases. Links are included for your reference.
In the end, all this gear fit comfortably and movement wasn't a factor at all. In addition, this gear fit in a such a way that there were no holes where wind could enter. Typically, weak points in gear are the neck and hand areas. Those are sensitive areas to cold so we took extra diligence to seal any openings.

So, what does it really feel like? Depending on the bike you own, whether or not you've got a windshield installed, and other factors, it is cold, but covering your bases on the areas I mentioned above will make the ride more tolerable and enjoyable. Besides, it would put a smirk on your face when you can tell all your CA riding buddies, "Hey, where I ride, I can freeze ice cubes!"

Some important tips to remember while preparing yourself to ride in the cold:
  • Check your tire pressure on your bike before leaving. Cold weather will decrease your tire pressure and affect control and fuel economy. Invest in a small tire gauge and keep it in your bike. It's a good habit to do so anyway, regardless of the weather.
  • Layers are your friend. The basic rule of thumb when dressing for the cold is to keep your core warm by wearing the tightest layers first and then building over them. Find your own combination of compression shirts, wind blocking jerseys, face coverings, and other riding gear that will keep you protected while still allowing for a good range of movement.
  • Block the wind. Cover every part of your body. Once wind finds a hole in your gear, your ability to ride through it will diminish because you'll be spending your time freezing as the air will shoot up any area you leave open. Remember that insulation is useless unless you've properly sealed every orfice that wind (and in some cases, water) can enter.
  • Consider electric gear. So far, I only have a pair of electric gloves, but they have been excellent in keeping frostbite and loss of feeling to the hands at bay. Although, this is a luxury option for most people, it can greatly enhance the cold weather riding experience, given that you've already bundled up properly.
  • Stay hydrated. You will stay warmer if you have liquid in your system. Drink water. Have a hot chocolate at your stop. Your body will thank you later.
  • Stay dry. Ever had cold water poured on your skin? Not fun. Moisture attracts the cold, so stay dry and you'll last longer out there.
  • Take more breaks. Being cold already takes a lot of energy to manage so try not to wear yourself out before you arrive at your destination.
  • Practice riding with your gear. Please experiment with your gear at shorter distances and in familiar areas before trying to go for the big trip. An effective collection of motorcycle gear takes miles to perfect. Even after 100,000 miles on my own all-time odometer, I'm still enhancing equipment on both my bike and my person.
It's not an easy task to ride at these temperatures, but with a little preparation and understanding of cold weather, you can extend your riding season by weeks, months, or even close to year-round. Good luck!

I plan to address issues on the actual motorcycle in Part Two of my commentary on long distance cold weather riding. Stay tuned!


Food Review: Siam Terrance (Urbana, IL)

Thanks to cut hours at Meijer, I was able to take a quick vacation to visit an old friend in Urbana, IL who is attending medical school at the University of Illinois. Of course, this was also a perfect opportunity for me and Matt to jump on the motorcycles and finally get our odometers ticked over to 80,000 miles each, which I hit somewhere en route to Indianapolis, IN and he upon reaching IL during this 600-mile round trip tour. Although the interstates were clear, the weather was quite nippy (averaging 35-37 degrees heading west and 25-27 heading home to be exact). I'll be addressing my first experience in extreme cold weather riding in another post. Now, on to the food. (There, Susy, you happy now?)

So Susy, Matt, and I traveled to Downtown Urbana, a hop from the University of IL campus, to try out Siam Terrace, a restaurant that specializes in Thai cuisine and...sushi? Yeah, you heard me, it's a restaurant that serves Asian food items from two separate regions but it's not a weird fusion concept place. With our group of hungry testers, both sides of the menu were going to be put to the test.

In terms of the inside appearance of Siam Terrance, it is simple with an eatery feel. It has an open seating area and a sit-down sushi bar toward the back of the room so it would be more like a place to bring friends for a casual dining experience.

As standard practice for me at any Thai restaurant, I ordered Thai Tea as my drink. It was made to Thai specs, mixed well and very creamy. With the food, there was quite a bit more customizing involved. Since Thai food is notorious for its levels of spice, Siam Terrance makes guessing your torture preferences easier using a spicy scale of 1-4, one standing for "spicy as a chewing a burlap sack" from four for "true Thai or sadist." Matt went for the level four on his Spicy Fried Rice while Susy and I went for absolute zero whimp status spice for our plates of Pad See Eew (a favorite I inherited from my old coworker), done with chicken and beef, respectively. In addition, we ordered another plate of Thai shrimp fried rice to share around.

Overall, the Thai food was delicious and authentic. The Pad See Eew had a just enough sweetness to complement the meat and thick, yet tender, rice noodles. Both this stir-fried pasta and the shrimp fried rice were full of flavor and not greasy at all with just the right amount of onions, carrots, and other various veggies to add color and texture. The "full" feeling we got was not from heavy amounts of oil but rather from the fact that our plates were completely empty because we couldn't stop eating! Matt inhaled his Spicy Fried Rice without sipping a single drop of water; I refused his offer to kiss me afterward and took his word for the food's hot factor. To put the level of his rice's spicy in perspective, I tried half a teaspoon of rice from his plate and still felt its effects even after several sips of water and trying to chew it off with the broccoli from my own noodles. Yeah that stuff is spicy, yet happily approved by a person who can eat habanero peppers without crying.

After finishing our Thai dishes, we ordered one of their cooked sushi rolls, the "New York," to split between the three of us. This roll consisted of shrimp tempura, cream cheese, imitation crab, asparagus, masago and topped with avocado slices, tempura crunch, and a sweet/spicy sauce. The presentation was beautiful and made the roll even more tantalizing to eat. It looked a little something like this...

The final verdict? This restaurant still upholds its case for having a multiple personality disorder. Once again, here's another sushi place that upstages any sushi I've had near the Pacific Ocean and we're located more than half a day from the East Coast.

We were stuffed, so dessert didn't make it to the menu, although it would be nice to take a shot of the Fried Banana with Honey on a return trip.

If you're stopping in Urbana, IL, I'd definitely recommend this place to get a Thai food and sushi fix. It is nice to know that there are good Asian restaurants in these parts of the Midwest; it really does take a little of the homesickness away...although a little bit of pad see ew and Thai Tea from The Original Thai BBQ Restaurant in CA with friends would be nice as well. Those are memories I'd like to keep.

 Siam Terrace on Urbanspoon


Food Review: Five Guys Burgers and Fries

On our way to see The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day at the AMC 30 at Easton Mall, Matt and I decided to have dinner at Five Guys Burgers and Fries, a franchise that has about 400 locations all over the nation. I figured that this would be another "burger joint," but with the taste of In-N-Out still not too far in my memory, it would be hard to upstage that distinct taste. However, this restaurant does make its own case and point for flavor and freshness, shown by its following in the Eastern US.

This particular store was busy today because of the start of the holiday shopping season, but we were served in a timely manner by a friendly host. The menu selection here was very reminiscent of the standard burger place, with two sizes of burgers (one or two patties of fresh, not frozen, beef) along with the option of having bacon added to the burger as well. In addition, topping choices were very similar to that of the Fatburger chain, with options ranging from ketchup, mustard, and mayo to BBQ sauce to A-1, grilled onions, and grilled mushrooms, all added at no additional charge. As for the fries, they were cut of a medium thickness from fresh potatoes trucked in from Idaho and cut in the store. Their fries included the option of being done "cajun style" in which the fries would be served with a spicy coating. I ordered the large bacon cheeseburger with mayo, lettuce, tomato, extra grilled onions, and grilled mushrooms and a small side of regular fries for my test.

Overall, the food was quite impressive for the price (It was about $9 for a bacon burger, small fries, and a drink). The burger was very well done and the fries were crisp and salted just enough to bring out the flavor. All the ingredients were fresh, the beef was juicy and flavorful, and the toppings and sauces blended well with each other with every bite, all the way down to the bits of bacon. However, as much as this burger really exemplified quality, it still missed an indescribable sense of distinction that a burger from In-N-Out possesses. Perhaps it was the lack of a unique spread or the recipe that made the burger buns, but nevertheless, Five Guys Burgers and Fries is definitely worth experimenting with.

And guess what! They're in CA. If anyone wants to give this burger place a shot, here are two locations in and near the OC and LA. I'm curious to know what you think.

Cerritos Promenade
11461 South Street
Cerritos, CA 90703

Southbay Pavillion (Carson Mall)
20700 Avalon Blvd
Carson, CA 90746

 Five Guys Burgers and Fries (Easton) on Urbanspoon


Weekend Adventure in Cleveland - Part 3

After the first game and a 5-4 victory against the Cleveland Heights Ice Hawks, I rode back to the hotel in 34 degree weather (it was actually a nice, clear night). The rink allowed us to leave our equipment overnight in the locker room so for the first time on an away game trip, I didn't have to pack everything up and drag it to my hotel room to dry. That was a nice treat.

The next morning, I went downstairs for the free breakfast, watched some TV, and made my way to a Play It Again Sports down the street in Mayfield Heights en route to the rink. When I got there, it was still closed (they don't open until noon on Sunday), so I decided to take a chance and call up my first cousin that lived one city over in South Euclid to see if she and the family were home. It turns out that she and the rest of the family were home and making lunch, so I rode an extra ten minutes to stop on by before heading back to the rink for the second game. It had been about 15 years since I had seen her and her husband; in fact, this would be the first time I would be meeting my second cousin, their son. I rolled up on the motorcycle and they were quite surprised. I definitely wasn't the little girl they remember from 1994. I hung around for an hour, took a couple pictures with them, and went to the rink. I'll be returning up there eventually for other events in Cleveland so it'll be nice to visit them again.

The game was pretty uneventful; it was an exhibition game against a newly formed team with a few good people but very little experience playing together. We won 8-0 (it was 5-0 by the end of the first period) and I posted my second shutout all-time for the Dayton Fangs. By the third period I was making snow cubes with the ice shavings I collected with my goal stick and the ref kept kicking them whenever face-offs made their way back to my side of the rink (total drag). After saying goodbye to my teammates I was off to my final treat, a dinner at the only Wing Stop in Ohio, located in Mentor-on-the-Lake, about 25 miles from Cleveland Heights.

So, what's the deal with Wing Stop? It's a nationwide chain based out of Texas that specializes in, you guessed it, wings. It's a very prolific chain out in CA, but for some strange reason, Columbus (or the rest of Ohio for that matter) doesn't find it marketable to have this store all over this state either. This will probably warrant its own blog post, but there is a distinct flavor and quality with Wing Stop that hasn't been matched by any other wing shop that I've tried in Columbus. It was well worth the trip, and I was very lucky to end up in one of the most awarded branches of this awesome franchise.

I was served by the owner, Sam, and we entered a very fun conversation about his store being the only Wing Stop in the state of Ohio. I told him my story about moving cross-country and missing a good meal from this place. While I was waiting for the wings to cook, I perused the store and amidst the standard Wing Stop-style decorations of early-20th century aviation nostalgia, there were plaques and photos of the many awards that Sam and his store have won over the years, including one photo with him and the company's spokesman, former NFL player Troy Aikman. It brought back nice memories to sit down with a basket of my garlic parmesan wings (bone-in, of course), a side of their unique tasting fries, and an Arnold Palmer while watching the Bengals outscoring the Raiders on a giant HDTV (I hate the Raiders, but that's a long story too). It was obvious why this Wing Stop was so heralded; customer service and wing quality was at its finest. When a handful of people come in on a Sunday evening to pick up their orders of 50+ wings for family get-togethers and parties, know Sam on a first-name basis, and get into conversations about their personal lives, you know there's a loyalty to the restaurant. Before I left, I filled up an Arnold Palmer for the road and ordered a to-go box of seven boneless wings for Matt in two of his favorite flavors: original hot and hickory smoked BBQ. Those were, by far, the best souvenir I brought back from North Ohio. I'm looking forward to returning there for wings when I come back to Cleveland.

It was a quick top off of the fuel and a 160-mile non-stop ride home. I made it to Columbus about a quarter to 9PM, unpacked the gear, and headed off to bed for another day of retail bliss. I was grateful for the vacation, though; I think the bike was happy for the exercise too.


Weekend Adventure in Cleveland - Part 2

After that wonderful lunch at Antonio's Restaurant in Parma, I ventured about 20 miles further into town to Perani's Hockey World in North Olmstead. Dubbed as "The Toy Store for the Hockey Player," it is one of 17 locations for this chain that has stores in Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Ontario (Canada), and Texas. This was going to be fun for me, especially because I had known about this store as a fledgling goalie over ten years ago who was looking for equipment online and eyeing a pair of McKenney leg pads (Perani's is the largest seller of McKenney goalie equipment.). Sure, Southern California spoiled me with the size and selection of stores such as Hockey Monkey and Hockey Giant. But, this particular store had something that those two couldn't accomplish because of their newness, business demands, and size - bringing back a sense of friendliness and nostalgia.

If you're looking for throwback hockey equipment, this store is where you'd want to be. This Cleveland location is quite small, about a quarter of the size of Hockey Giant's old Anaheim store, but it's chock full of gear from at least a decade ago, if not older. I was there toward closing time, so I had a chat with one of the guys who was showing me their selection of new goalie pads (the popular brands here are McKenney, Vaughn, and RBK). Later in the conversation, he took a ladder and brought down a dusty pair of brand new Koho pads from the early 90s (think Felix Potvin's first gen pair when he was playing for the Leafs) and another pair of brand new pro stock Franklin Pads that were made for Sami Jo Small, goaltender of Team Canada's Women's Olympic team. The latter was very tempting to buy - they were on closeout for $150 negotiable - but I restrained myself and continued to browse and venture into the player's section where they stocked one piece and two piece pro stock sticks from Innovative, Franklin, TPS (the old rubber models from ten years ago), replacement blades from long-retired NHL-ers, and aluminum shafts for shimmy hockey.

I was a good girl and only got out of there with an new pair of skate blade soakers and a bumper sticker. From what the employees tell me, the flagship store in Flint, MI is up to the ceiling in old hockey gear. That would be a fun place to visit someday.

When I think about my own set of goalie gear, I've retained several pieces over the years (most specifically my chest armor and my pants) because of my refusal to transition over to the more bulky equipment that restricts movement and, despite all the new bells and whistles, hasn't given me an excuse to spend several hundred dollars on new stuff. Sometimes there's no school like the old school, and when it's comfortable, it stays.

Speaking of hockey, it was off to my hotel room in Mayfield Heights for a quick rest and then to the Cleveland Heights Community Center for the first game of my two-game hockey weekend. This facility is quite nice, is funded by the city, and has two rinks running during the winter months, one Olympic-sized and one NHL-sized. The latter becomes a gym half the year which was obvious when I saw the basketball hoops retracted into the ceiling. Here's a shot of the Olympic rink where we played our first game.

This first team, the Cleveland Heights Ice Hawks, was a much hated rival of the Dayton Fangs. It took me half a period to realize this after three penalties and a near scrum in front of the opposing team's net. They even had a huge defenseman that I nicknamed "Sasquatch" because of her dirty play. We did persevere and won the game 5-4 in regulation with a nice shot from my defenseman from the point that found a corner of the net. That win put my record to 2-0 all-time for Dayton. Now to go for a road trip sweep tomorrow against a new foe in an exhibition game.


Weekend Adventure in Cleveland - Part 1

I spent this weekend in Cleveland for a couple hockey games with the Dayton Fangs, a team based out of Dayton (about 1.5 hrs. from Columbus) that adopted me in October after their goalie went down with a knee injury and opted for season-ending surgery. These away games marked the second and third that I've played in net for them, and I've enjoyed their team's spunk, drive, and personality. I was fortunate to get this weekend off after being denied the request from work the first time around and used the opportunity to give Eleanor (my Yamaha FJR1300 for the new readers) some exercise, a new area to explore, and to give my heated Gerbing gloves to the test. So, before the first game, I went for some food and sightseeing.

I left Columbus a bit hungry, so I made my way to Parma and Antonio's Restaurant. If you're a Drew Carey fan, you've probably heard him plug this restaurant quite a number of times on many of the shows that he's been on. This is the famous restaurant that makes the pizzas that he has shipped across the country for his show's crew and other special events. I was very curious to taste why he has remained so loyal to this eatery in his hometown.

The interior of the restaurant was dimly lit so it had a very romantic (and very stereotypically Italian) appearance to it. I ordered a lunch serving of shrimp fettuccine alfredo and a small, personal pizza (half mushrooms only, half pepperoni only) to try. The pasta dish came with a side of salad and a section freshly baked bread. The salad was very delicious with their homemade croutons; every part of the salad all the way down to the olives tasted as if they were handpicked. The bread was so soft and flavorful that butter was a complete afterthought. When the pasta came, I was immediately surprised by the flavorful smell of the cream and cheese from the alfredo sauce. The pasta itself was perfectly cooked al dente, and the shrimp was plump and tender. This fettuccine has definitely made it up there in my list of favorites, joining the ranks of one of my other favorite restaurants, Pasta Roma in Los Angeles.

When I was halfway through the alfredo, my server brought in the pizza. This pizza was very meticulously made. The mozzarella cheese was so fresh that it melted in the gooey, stringy fashion that you can't get with Papa John's (or any chain for that matter). The pepperoni and mushrooms were very fresh and complemented the cheese very well, and the crust had a light texture and taste that just made every bite enjoyable. This would definitely be a pizza I wouldn't hesitate to order for takeout.

Now I understand why Drew Carey will dish the dough to get a bunch of these pies shipped to LA. This experiment was well worth it and a lot of food for the price. If you're ever headed up to the Parma area and want some Italian, go to Antonio's - a definite stand-out in Cleveland.


Some odds and ends in C-bus

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After a month of actually having a job again, I've taken some liberties to reward myself and de-stress a little with small things such as a trip to our new favorite sushi place, a stop at the Polaris Fashion Place for some window shopping, and a detour from the monotony of robotic retail work. Here were a few things that were going through my mind lately.

Here's a view from the upper dining area the inside of Edamame Sushi and Grill in North Columbus. I go here to get my sushi fix (It's all about the Buckeye roll), sip a well-mixed Arnold Palmer, and enjoy the scenery. It's probably the only local restaurant by far that has gotten me hooked. It's unlike any other restaurant I've visited and they do provide awesome service. I've had a hankering to try out Columbus Fish Market and thanks to a gift card from Matt's family, it looks like that's going to happen pretty soon. I hear that place is top online review may be possible.

I got a haircut and shopped a little at the Polaris Mall the day before my birthday. Window shopping is fun, especially when the newest styles of the season are just being put out on display. Currently, it appears the The Gap is boasting their "best premium jeans" for $54.50. With a price like that, I can see how you wouldn't be able to afford anything else to wear. As demonstrated by the mannequin in the middle, it can also cost you an arm as well.

Currently, one of my duties at my job at Meijer is auditing shelf tag labels to make sure prices on the tags are identical to the main store system's database. This means having to go through the entire store and painstakingly scan anywhere between 3000-4000 items every day (and you wonder why I'm looking for another job). I've traversed to the grocery section of my particular store and came across this while scanning foods in the "Ethnic Foods" section.
So I'm thinking, "That sounds a little controversial." I pull this particular candy bar out and realize that it's made by Nestle and is marketed in the UK. In fact, this candy bar has been around for a long time! Here's the Wikipedia page for it: I actually found it to be quite humorous, but there's always that one sensitive person that would cry over the sight of the front of the label.

Sorry, girl, not for you. Actually I bought one of these and took it home for me and Matt to try. It's a standard chocolate bar, like a Hershey's but creamier.

Lastly, I realized after working in retail that Christmas is the next major holiday after Halloween. Thanksgiving is a turkey and stuffing sale and that's about it. At least that's what the motorcycle shop said. Here's Iron Pony's take on Santa's new ride. Apparently he's traded his sleigh for a camo 4x4 and laid off the reindeer.

The good news is that he's wearing a helmet and is powered by Yamaha. That's my kind of Santa.


Zhu Zhu Pets? Will this save the hamsters?

During my Friday shift at Meijer (for all of you West Coast folks, think a Super Target), I was asked by a customer if we had Zhu Zhu Pets in stock. I consulted my co-worker to see if those toys were in stock and she told me, with a sigh of relief, that Meijer was out of stock and not planning to carry anymore until the holidays. Me, being the mid-20s young adult out of sync with the newest toy trends, decided to find out what the heck these were, as my co-worker described them as "robotic hamsters."

Sure enough, I logged onto the Zhu Zhu Pets website and saw these fuzzy pill things that supposedly resembled hamsters. These pills on wheels were battery operated, noisy robotic rodents that had their own tracks, running balls, cars and hiding holes. The hamsters could even be tucked in for the evening to go to sleep. Really?

I mean, I can see why parents would want to buy one of these toys for their kids for [insert over-secularized holiday and/or birthday here]. Batteries are a much cleaner substitute than poo, pee, and eventually, burials and/or dispatch of remains by porcelain commode. These things don't bite, but it seems like they don't do much else, either. When the kids will eventually put them aside for the next big thing, you won't have to continue supporting the fuzzies' lives until they eventually venture to the giant rodent wheel in the sky. These Zhu Zhu Pets will go to the storage bin until the next yard sale (or if you're my parents, next to the 70s clothes, bootleg copies of Richard Simmons' "Sweatin' to the Oldies," and my dog's ashes where they will never be heard from again - they don't believe in throwing anything away).

But, there's something missing...oh yes, spontaneity! Fuzzy, my hairless rat, doesn't fail to surprise me with a new trick or a place to hide. Sure I have to deal with animal waste and eventually, having to say goodbye, but I do value the fact that he makes me smile when I'm grumpy.

I totally wouldn't spend $55 on a pair of motorized hamsters (accessories not included). The organic ones are far more pleased with sunflower seeds, natural plant fiber fluff, a strawberry every now and then, and a toilet paper tube to rip apart. Hell, if I had my way, forget the hamsters and go for the rats; they're so much smarter and sweeter anyway.

I have unofficially declared these toys the "Tickle-Me-Elmo" of 2009. If I am scheduled to work on Black Friday this year, I will definitely see how insane parents will be to get these for their spawn. Pet stores, you have been spared for now; cuteness is now a fur pill of electricity and its name isn't Pikachu.

I think I'll pull my Power Rangers and Gargoyles action figures out of storage and play with those for a few minutes to relive the good old days.


When all you want is an L&L plate lunch.

I found myself dreaming of chicken katsu and BBQ chicken a few days ago with a side of rice and mac salad. That was only a dream though, because the closest L&L's Hawaiian BBQ to Columbus is in New York City. Sounds like a motorcycle ride to me. And if I wanted a wing fix from Wing Stop, I would have to travel two hours north to Mentor On Lake, OH to go to the only franchised store in the state. Oh, and let's go for some Daphne's Greek Cafe...after a three day ride to Denver, CO?! Please don't get me started on In-n-Out because it'll be a while until I can make it back to Utah.

Come on, Ohio! We have to make a fair trade here. To my knowledge, there are a few Ohio-based food establishments that did make it to CA, those being Wendy's, Strickland's Frozen Custard, and Charley's Grilled Subs. Those are great and all, but I really can only put up with grilled cheesesteak sandwiches, "those kind" of hamburgers, and every variation of it for so long! What I need is a plate lunch or Greek food, Daphne's style. Sure, they're "just food chains," but they're flavors I remember from living on the West coast a quarter century. On a bright note, there is a BJ's Restaurant just down the street...just in case Matt and I may want to relive our first date and share a pizookie.

The passion for certain foods goes both ways; the Strickland's that just happened to land on UC Irvine's campus was as a result of Ohio transplants who loved the frozen custard so much that they wanted to bring it to CA. The ice cream is so exact in spec, thanks to a single Strickland's ice cream machine that was painstakingly dismantled, replicated from the screws on up, and reassembled over a year and a half. So yes, a cone of vanilla at their original store in Akron, OH is identical to a cone in Irvine, CA. The only difference is about an extra $2 for the cone in Irvine.

The original store in Akron isn't very posh, but it's still the same ice cream. On a good day, the line would go out to the parking lot.

I hope that someone will think the same way about a chain like L&L's and have the capital to open a franchise in Central OH someday. The Filipino population is growing here. Heck, they're close...NYC is only a 8 hour ride. I wouldn't put down all the food out here; I've had very good impressions with Quaker Steak & Lube (although I still think Wing Stop is better) and the made-to-order burgers of Steak 'n Shake (nothing will ever beat In-n-Out to me). However, I will say that LA can learn a thing or two about sushi from a little restaurant in North Columbus by the name of Edamame Sushi and Grill. That place has definitely raised the bar for sushi quality and flavor. If you're ever in town, I'll take you there.

Yeah, that's me making a case for L&L's in Ohio. See? I'm not the only one!


Ice scraper, anyone?

Until a few days ago, I didn't realize the value of having easy access to an ice scraper. For the last two days at least, the routine for starting the car would involve allowing it to idle for several minutes while I took the scraper to the front windshield, side windows, and the mirrors. I'd shave off enough ice from the glass to make a kid-sized snowcone and then leave it on the windshield to blow off while I drove to hockey practice or work. It's quite a scene to see this from your car while the DJ on the radio declares that it'll "be nice all week with temps in the 70s."

Welcome to the unpredictability of Ohio weather. Whereas in California it's still in the 80s and 90s (and probably still on fire) I'm seeing frost in the backyard at 8AM and there's probably a 50% chance of rain tomorrow. It is an adjustment to say the least. I am grateful for all those years in the hockey rink because I don't seem to be physically fazed by it at all.

On a bright note, it'll be interesting to see actual seasons. It took 25 years of my life, but I'll actually see snow fall for the first time this winter. The leaves actually change colors here; it's a concept that I was taught in first grade but never understood. In pockets, the weather will be pleasant enough to take out the bikes every few days or so to ride through country roads and enjoy one of the most beautiful times of the year. The air is always clean and it's a nice sight to see a blue sky without a halo of brown stuff over it.

Clean air, a lower cost of living, and a slower change of pace. I'm getting used to it. For the first time in a long time I actually have time to plan activities, play more hockey, and socialize with other people. I get the extra hour and a half of time back that I would've used trying to get back home from work to relax. People are a lot more pleasant out here and actually greet you. Makes me wonder why I didn't leave CA earlier...I guess I just needed a reason and a little persuasion.


Wedding planning for the seriously non-traditional wedding - first thoughts.

As a wedding videographer, one would expect me to have a plethora of wedding ideas to choose from after all the ceremonies and receptions I've taped. From my point of view, the way that the events drag on and on during the eight or so hours I'm chronicling this important moment in two people's lives, the less I envision myself in the same situation a year or so from now. I guess our version of celebrating our union is quite different from everyone else's. The idea of a poofy dress, a church, figuring out how to feed 50+ people, and dancing just don't turn me or Matt on. Our visions of a wedding ceremony involve a long motorcycle journey with a scenic view, no church, and a very small group of people, if there is even a group at all. A gown and a tuxedo would be replaced with a pair of custom Aerostitch jackets and somewhere in between we'd travel on some of the most beautiful roads in the northeastern United States, places that we've never ventured and sights we've always wanted to see together.

The challenge in finding any help in this department is that most people would think that we're crazy for not even considering a dress or a church. I can't find a single published book or website that caters to the person who says "no" to the wedding dress, the reception, a wedding party, and all the foo-foo traditions that are only done because every typical wedding expects it to happen. Why does the only unique part of "destination wedding" end at flying somewhere else to perform the same traditions with an exotic flare? As humorous as it may sound, I really don't want a bunch of people seeing Matt's head up my dress. As for the idea of a reception or wedding party would be nice, face it, we've moved too far away from the people that we know. We're already up a creek budget wise even thinking of pulling the ceremony itself off. I still wonder how the weddings I've taped are even pulled off. I bet they have the support of family members; mine has pretty much disowned me for reasons that could take up another blog post.

Now being in Columbus, our plans have changed to focus on our new locale and what may lie ahead in the next year or so. Maybe someday we'll find a way to return to CA to celebrate some part of our wedding, but honestly I'd just go for an afternoon of Daphne's Greek Cafe with friends who'd be willing to eat Greek food.


Why it's important to wear ALL your gear.

Crashing sucks. Crashing sucks when you're on your way to your first day of training at your new job and it's raining outside. But that was me this morning. What seemed to be a routine ride to work turned into me getting thrown off of my iron horse.

I left the house about 10:30AM in the midst of a light rain that had started within the last hour. As I was completing a right turn onto the main road, my bike felt like it caught something on the road and went into an uncontrollable fishtail. I held on until it finally went down, sliding toward the middle of the road and sending me the other way toward the shoulder. From what it felt like, I fell onto my right elbow first and rolled several times, hitting the left side of my forehead in the process, until coming to a stop face-down on the pavement. The wind was knocked out of me and I lay there for about a minute or two. Fortunately there were a few guys and some firefighters at the gas station in front of the whole scene.

After regaining my breath and feeling for all my appendages, I got up unassisted. After taking off my helmet, I realized that my face shield had ripped completely off. My jacket was perfectly intact and my pants had not one rip on it. After it was deemed that I didn't need any medical attention, police from both Franklin County and the Ohio State Patrol came by to assess the situation. It turned out that I went down at the border of two counties, Franklin and Delaware, but since the incident occurred on a U.S. Highway, it was handed over to the OSP's jurisdiction. As I found out as a resident of Ohio, I was cited for "failure to control vehicle" and I now have to pay a $130 fine for the whole incident.

It was either my face shield or my face. My skin and glasses were completely intact after the spill.

The good news? I'm alright. No road rash whatsoever. The area above my right elbow where the initial impact occurred is bruised and the muscles on my right hip are a little sore. I feel better after a 2-hour nap. I got a little headache from the hit to the head and I'm watching that to make sure that it doesn't worsen (it feels like it's improving). My helmet has now been retired and is now a new hangout spot for Fuzzy (he also got a bath today). The bike did get quite a bit of rash on the right side case and front fairing but nothing that can be fixed or found on eBay.

As for the cause of the fishtail, I can only speculate that I hit either an extremely wet spot or an area that had pooled up in oil and other slippery chemicals. In addition, I was attempting to accelerate up a small hill while turning which didn't help the balance factor at all. Nevertheless, I was fully dressed for the occasion and covered head to toe in protective gear. I still believe all that gear kept me out of the ambulance today.

I'll be making up my job training at Meijer on Saturday and business goes on as usual. Matt was able to ride my bike home and I am glad I have him to take care of me. It looks like the car is getting a bit more exercise, and if I'm still on the up and up tomorrow, I've got a hockey game.


Motorcycle vs. Rain...continued

After solving the cold, wet hands with a pair of Gerbing heated gloves I turn my attention to the other problem area that often soaks up faster than any part of my body: my crotch.

Getting water in the crotch is no fun. As soon as that water penetrates through all the layers of motorcycle gear, it starts to feel like someone is methodically pouring a bottle of soda on your lap and laughing. In my previous trips across the country, I was able to find quasi-waterproof inner linings to make the experience a little more tolerable and the addition of a lambskin seat cover also assisted greatly in preventing my custom Corbin seat from becoming Lake Erie Jr. However, the water will inevitably pool up there and the slushy feeling continues. Add a nice cross wind and I feel like I'm sitting on a Slurpee.

I took a trip to Iron Pony and picked up a pair of Frogg Toggs pants. After hearing Matt rave about the jacket portion and seeing the results (his Dainese touring jacket was bone dry after riding ten miles in a downpour) I decided to make a relatively small investment ($25 to be exact) on a pair of the bottom counterparts. Just for a visual example, he has this orange jacket and I have the black pants. To make sure the pants fit over my Aerostitch Darien pants and any additional layers I were to add in colder weather, I picked up a 3XL. The cool part is that the zippers go nearly halfway up the pant leg so it was pretty effortless to put the pants on with my boots on.

Hopefully, this should solve the problem of the wet crotch. I'll have to wait for another rainstorm to try the pants out.


Heated gloves!

It turns out that my solution to the waterproof motorcycle glove situation is a pair of Gerbing's heated gloves. It wasn't until the slight cold snap last Tuesday (it decided to stay below 50 degrees the entire day) that these are going to be necessary if I am to extend my riding season into the winter months. Being a Californian for my entire life and about to spend my first winter in the East Coast, the upgrade is probably going to be a necessity very soon. I have been fortunate to have spent most of my long distance riding in the summer months so the "wet" factor has always been there, especially in the very humid and sticky Southeast. The cold, on the other hand, only came in small pockets and usually not enough to have to justify a pair of electrically heated hand coverings.

So I went for a pair of these and Matt helped me hook them up to the bike battery. After switching them on I immediately felt the difference. It's a much cheaper solution to changing over to heated grips; there's a part of me that says this might be more effective than the former as well. Maybe I'll connect an electric liner underneath if it really starts to get bad. Gotta keep riding...I still have an annual mileage contest to finish!


Rain, that drippy stuff.

Out of the near month I've been here in Ohio, I swear that it's been raining for half of it. I've probably seen more rain fall here in the last week and a half that I've seen in CA in the last two years. That could explain why everything is quite green and lush here. Hell, it's even raining right now! Most people could care less about precipitation, but the West Coast (unless you live in OR or WA) is in complete denial that it ever does rain, or have anything fall from the sky for that matter. And when it rains in Los Angeles, at least one street is completely flooded, regardless of how little it really does rain. Half an inch of rain in a day is "Flash Flood" status. I think Ohio would call that a drought.

For the motorcyclist, it's another round of puddles to play in. For me, it's a chance to do some research on better gear for the wet stuff. The motorcycle pants and gloves I wear are the biggest issue at the moment. I've been very successful with my Aerostitch Roadcrafter Jacket and I won't budge from that. However, the jacket can't stop anything else from getting flooded below the waist. It's not fun getting water in the crotch or the cold, wet paws on the handlebars. Time for some rainy day shopping!


Fuzzy the Rat

It's a Sunday night and I'm attempting to get back into some routine while I'm job searching. So, I got back to the video editing board and opened up a wedding video that I'd like to finish pretty soon. To help me with this project is my trusty, hairless, one-eyed rat named Fuzzy.

I have to put in a little blurb in the blot about Fuzzy. Matt gave him to me for Valentine's day this year and since then he's been our companion during video game sessions, late night video editing, a cross-country move, and lounging on the sofa while watching TV. He's a klepto who likes to take paper items from my desk to line his cage and will find a way to lick your hands and face clean of whatever you ate earlier. I've had quite a few rats and mice and pets, but so far, Fuzzy has been my favorite rodent of all. I'm typing this as he's curling up in a fleece-lined crinkle bag and taking a torn up piece of paper with him.

Fuzzy is hairless rat and we adopted him from a PetSmart in Tustin, CA. He was missing an eye (perhaps from a fight) and that's what put him on the adoption list. It didn't take him long to get accustomed to the house and he's always excited when he hears a door open or hears the bag of treats opening up. He'll get himself into quite a bit of trouble; I'll let the pics speak for themselves. He's been caught on camera so many times that he's earned his own album on my Facebook page.

Fuzzy recharging his batteries...

Fuzzy goes on a desk safari...

Fuzzy has a root beer!

And here's Fuzzy's helmet hotel.

Alright, that's enough cuteness for now. Going back to work. LOL


Hockey in Columbus - First Thoughts

I am glad that hockey is considered to be a sport in this part of town.

Between Matt and I, we have visited four of the five ice facilities in the Columbus area. No, that's not a typo. I'm talking eight rinks in five facilities within 45 minutes of each other. Ironically, I mentioned Ohio being a "hockey state" to one of the players at today's drop-in hockey game at the Dublin Chiller and he shrugged his shoulders and replied, "Not really." After Matt was able to get a job at the Easton Chiller rink quite easily, I began to change my own perspectives on a sport that has has further designated me as an oddball of the West Coast.

Hockey and skating is so normal here that ice time is easy to come by. Matt and I went to a public skate on Sunday and we were only two of five people skating during the slot. I don't have to fight for a space to play as a goalie; in fact, the rink's happy when goalies actually do show up. It does beat the 2-week advance notice and $100 credit card hold Anaheim Ice used to put for their players...and the pick-up slot is only on Friday nights for 59.5 minutes. The Ice Haus, the official practice facility for the Columbus Blue Jackets, is open to the public and is so spectator friendly that the rink can be seen from across the street. In contrast, just getting into Toyota Sports Center in El Segundo is like entering Fort Knox. I guess they need to hide the fact that they also house figure skaters, I mean the Manchester Kings of Los Angeles.

The Chiller Rinks also have another strange concept: women's-only locker rooms. They're also equipped with a full bathroom stall and a shower. I felt really spoiled and alone at the same time; I was the only female on the ice both days I went to drop-in hockey. Going to have to work on that.

My only critique is that there is no full-blown women's league here. The closest thing to that is a single team in the Chiller's house league called "BOB" that is completely comprised of women and two travel hockey teams, the Columbus Capitals and the Columbus Bandits. In fact, I was asked to sub in goal for team BOB in October; I'm looking forward to doing that. Going to investigate those two travel teams as well, but I can't justify the $700 price tag that the Capitals put on their entire season. For now, I'm trying to stay in shape by going to random drop-in sessions of hockey when I can. Might as well while I'm still unemployed.

I guess anything hockey related in California will always be considered a novelty. Rink rentals are upwards to $400 an hour. The ice at most facilities feels like you're skating in a lake half the time. It's a sport reserved for the "rich." It is a change of pace to hop in my car and be at any one of these Chiller rinks within 20 minutes. And when CA starts recognizing sled hockey as a sport, I will be quite surprised. I got to see my very first sled hockey practice on the other ice rink after the drop-in time was done. Hockey and skating schools are in full swing here, completely transparent and very accessible. The young players aren't required to have skated since their fetal stages to be on teams, and every high school in the area has a team.

I still believe that I was an East Coast kid switched at birth. Hockey is a sport I take pride in and one that my family scorns, along with my passion for motorcycles. I am relieved to finally be in a place where I can be free to play hockey and indulge myself in what I love the most.


Chillin' with the Ohio Riders

So a few days ago I joined this message board called the Ohio Riders to connect with other motorcyclists in the area. After perusing the board and introducing myself, I decided to bring Matt with me to one of their bike nights at the Quaker Steak & Lube at the Polaris Parkway. The meet point was across the street and we got there a little early. By about 6:45 quite a few more bikes showed up of all different types. Ironically enough, no Harleys...very strange. I got to meet another member who had a first-gen FJR so we were talking about the accessories we had on both our bikes. The entire group spent another 45 or so minutes across the street to stare at all the motorcycles at the restaurant. According to a few of the guys, the approx. 75 bikes there was considered to be an extremely low turnout. Then again the "riding season" is coming to the end. My goal is to see how far I can stretch the riding season for myself...still aiming for 10 out of 12 months at the minimum.

We all went to Hooters Polaris after that to have dinner. The Wednesday $10 unlimited wings deal was pretty cool and I could barely get through two plates of bone-in wings (everyone else had boneless so they were cheating after going for their 3rd plates). We were back home by 9:30PM; it helps when home is only 5 minutes away. It's a stark contrast from the 60+ miles I used to ride alone into Canyon Country (14 freeway past Magic Mountain) just to go to a bike night for a couple hours and then leave. This one was relaxing and the people were very nice. Matt and I are looking forward to another event like this.


How I ended up in Ohio, Part I

So why Columbus, OH of all places? I could have chosen anywhere else in the world, but the world is a nicer place when you have someone to share it with. So here enters Matt, my fiance who you'll read about in these posts every now and then.

Let me give you a bit of background on this. Back around Thanksgiving break 2007, I put up this ad on Craigslist in hopes that I'd find something to do over the weekend.


Motorcycle rider? Ever been to Palos Verdes? Here's a chance. - w4m
I'm looking for someone to take a quick loop on the motorcycle around the Palos Verdes Peninsula. If you've never been down here, it's a great place to ride - my "lunch break route" as I like to call it. Nice shoreline, some twisties, but lots of scenery and sea air.

I'm a long distance rider with nothing to do this Thanksgiving. I can't go too far thanks to my schedule, and I've taken this loop so many times by myself during the day and during the night that I might as well be a tour guide. If you're into more riding, we can also improvise a route all over the South's my home turf.

I enjoy all day rides with no destination in mind. That's where I learn the most of about the world.

Searching for a young biker (22-30) who enjoys riding for fun and is safety-oriented (i.e. wearing a REAL helmet and proper riding attire). No racing or stunts (the police love to ding riders for speeding and recklessness in PV) and I don't care what bike you ride, although you do need to have a bike - I'm not taking passengers at the moment. Perhaps a chat at the coffee shop afterwards.

Would like to ride with you sometime this weekend!


Well, to say the least, the responses started flowing in. Most of them were quite stupid. I probably went through about 25-30 e-mails. Many of them were the typical "pic for pic" BS which wasn't what I was really looking for. I scared most of them off by just mentioning what bike I was riding. (This is why I love Eleanor, my 2007 FJR1300A...she looks out for my well being and keeps the jerks away.) In case you're not aware of this, I ride the largest sportbike that Yamaha makes. So the little pussies with their 600 sportbikes stop talking to me. And then, I get this e-mail from a particular "Matt" from Orange County.


It appears I missed this weekend, but I'd love to take a nice ride somewhere. I got my M1 endorsement at in March but I haven't taken any fun trips yet - just to and from work everyday. If you're free another weekend, I'd be more than willing to go for a ride. What kind of bike(s) do you ride?



Hmm, someone who wrote more than a sentence? Quite intriguing. So I replied back and so did he, and this continued on for more than two weeks. And we talked about subjects ranging from work and random hobbies. In fact, he even stopped by the Long Beach Motorcycle Show last week looking for me at the Women on Wheels booth and missed me by about an hour. A missed connection, but we continued e-mailing each other.

So yesterday comes around. I had two parties to attend that day and a photography session at Neighborhood Church. I write to Matt that the Women On Wheels Christmas Party was at Finbar's in Long Beach and he was welcome to join. He writes back, drops is phone number in, and tells me that he'll see me there. I get a little excited because I finally get to meet the person behind these e-mails.

I'm at Finbar's with six other members and we're waiting for our food and the like. I get a call from Matt and he's telling me he's lost. I give him directions and even get to the point that I'm handing the phone over to one of the Orange County ladies to help out. (I'm trying to figure out how he's able to speak to me while riding, and I realized later he had a Bluetooth helmet piece on...LOL.) So about an hour of going in circles, he finally comes by. I'm talking to the other ladies, and turn around to see he's standing there in full BMW gear, much to my chagrin. He's in good spirits, and I'm already impressed with his patience...I figured that he would've given up and went home but he stuck around. We were done with our food by the time he arrived, but he was fair game for riding back with three of us to PV...

So we begin riding toward the PV Peninsula. Here was the proposed route:

1. PCH to CA-103 West toward Terminal Island.
2. Terminal Island to Vincent Thomas Bridge
3. Vincent Thomas Bridge back to coastline.

Well, it didn't necessarily go that way. Going down PCH I overshoot 103 and we end up just going through PCH and the ghettos of Long Beach and Wilmington. I redirect everyone down Gaffey and all the way to the end by the Korean Friendship Bell, back up Western and on PV Drive West. When we get to the 7-11 at the corner of Hawthorne and PV Drive West, we stop for gas..well everyone except me. One of the riders needed to split off and run some errands, while the other lady needed to be sent over to the intersection of Beryl and PCH (which I popped out the GPS for and complied). So with only three of us left, we take the coastal route until that intersection of PCH and Beryl where she peels off without a trace. I look in the rear view mirrors and realize that it's just me and Matt now.

We finally roll to a stop at the corner of PCH and Catalina Ave. This was my chance to really take him around town. So, the first thing I ask him is "Are you a fan of hills?" He nods with a 'yes' and I take him through Knob Hill and 190th St. With a left on Anza and another left onto Del Amo Blvd., I take Matt through one of the first of many sharp curves on our path back toward Palos Verdes. I take the twist to the point of nearly dragging my toe through the turn, thinking I'd lose him until we met back up on the straightaway.

He stays on my tail.

Impressive, I think to myself. We continue down Maple and all the way to 235th St. which loops right back onto Crenshaw. A left on Crenshaw and a right onto Narbonne Ave. and the loop is nearly complete. PV Drive East, my test for him. Could he keep up the pace. Was he really the adventurous type that he's been showing to me all day? I was to find that out soon.

Palos Verdes Drive East is a winding, six-mile course that ends in three loose hairpins and a view of the ocean and Catalina Island (on a clear day that is, we were lucky). This road is my home, so every curve is predictable, every piece of road is familar all too well to me and Eleanor. And glancing over my shoulder I could see that for him, it seemed the same way. As I tried to lose him it seemed that he was gaining on me with every twist. We stopped at the end of PV Drive East at the same time, take a couple seconds to breathe off the obstacle course, and continue back onto Portuguese Bend and the gas station where this adventure had begun. I take him to the Starbucks right above the gas station and we stop for an hour or so with coffees and chatting about this, that, and the other thing. (He pays, by the way.)

I check my watch and it's about 5:20. I have to attend the second of the two bike club parties that were slated for today. I tell him that I have to go to this party and remind him that he could split off at any time. He follows me anyway. We swing by the house so I could pick up the exchange gift, take a couple Advils (I wasn't feeling to well), and go back down the hill to Normandie Ave. I introduce him to everyone at Motorcycle Touring Assocaition 3 and he actually ends up joining the club! We have to leave at 7:45 to make it to the final stop of my day, a photo shoot at Neighborhood Church of the annual live-action Christmas pagent. (Basically, members of the church reenact scenes of the Christmas story, standing still the entire time. Cycy asked me to take pictures for her.) He stayed for that too! And the entire time we were talking about everything from religion to the story of how a drunk driver took one of my drama group kids two years ago.

For some reason, the drunk driver story got him really riled up. He's in the process of becoming a police officer and it turns out that it's one of the things he's passionate about stopping.

It seemed that religion was another basis that we had in common as well. Turns out he was one of those kids that grew up in the Catholic household. That turned out for good times on the conversation. So I snapped pictures while we chatted, and when that was all done, we stood in the parking lot by our bikes and continued to talk some more. Then I led him home via the 110, entering on Anaheim and getting off at PCH to loop on back home. All this was over by 9PM, and I went straight to sleep after that in a slight bit of pain from whatever else was attacking me at the time.

So that's my story. He didn't leave. He was with me for those eight hours of riding and adventures within my own backyard and appeared to enjoy it. No complaints, all curiosity, it was a day to remember.