Google+ Two-Wheeled Tourist: 2010

12.30.2010

CA Dreamin': Roads that make OH-555 look like a joke.

I've been around enough motorcyclists out here in Ohio to hear about "the roads." Since Ohio is mostly flat without much variety in terrain, many riders flock down to the southeast corner of the state to get some sort of adrenaline rush from blind turns, unpredictable traffic, and in some cases, irresponsible vehicles that cross double lines into opposing lanes.

I've done the SE Ohio thing and there are quite a few nice areas that satisfy my need for curves and scenery because California is a 4.5 day ride from here (if I take it casually). But here's the problem with most of it: there's lots of curves out here but there's nothing to look at. Look at a sheep or some other random livestock puddling down the road and you could find yourself missing a tight corner and ending up in someone's gravel-laced driveway. Out here, the ride is just a series of curves you need to survive and maybe some greenery and cornfields to break up the monotony.

This is when I think about the roads I miss on the West Coast. These are the backroads that are so far away from the traffic of the cities and highways and yet are still less than a two hour (straight line) distance from home. These roads are simply roads. The curves are distinct to where you're not trying to discern it from the entrance to someone's house. The mountains, scenery, and if you're in the right place, the view of the Pacific Ocean, and elevation changes are breathtaking and picture-worthy. And if needed sooner than wanted, the ride back home is a straight line down a couple interstates.

Here is a route similar to one that Matt and I took on New Year's Day 2008. I've modified it so that it starts a little farther out near Banning, CA (off of I-10) and ends in Temecula, CA somewhere near a casino known as Pechanga. It also passes through Julian, CA (home of wonderful apple pies), a old-fashioned western style place that doesn't dip below 40 degrees at any given time.

I'll be throwing out more scenic roads that I've done and miss riding through, and those that put these Midwest roads to shame. As another winter passes through the Buckeye State, all I can do is dream about those routes. When I ride the motorcycle on those non-icy days, I will continue wishing I was back there too.

We enjoyed our first New Year's Day ride as a couple in this area and I hope to do it again someday. For now, all we can settle for is this "Polar Bear" ride which consists of 25 miles down I-270 to meet at a restaurant and get a cute pin to say we "survived" riding in January. Wow.

Happy New Year, everyone! It'll only get better...I hope.


View Larger Map

Here's a close-up of CA-243.

View Larger Map

Here is one of several additional options on the way, Palomar Mountain.

View Larger Map

12.20.2010

Warning: Squid Alert (and Happy Holidays)

I apologize to the all the responsible GSX-R riders out there, but you know this stuff is pretty true for the lot of them.

Happy Holidays, everyone!

12.01.2010

Food Review: Choe's Asian Gourmet (Beavercreek, OH)

Finally, gourmet Asian food with a designer flare has come to the Dayton area! Choe's Asian Gourmet, located at The Greene, an open-air shopping center off of I-675 in Beavercreek/Kettering, opened less than two weeks ago to an area that was begging for a larger variety of exotic, off-beat restaurants. This is the third restaurant opened in Ohio of this type owned by a single company, the other two being Asian Gourmet and Sushi Bar in Gahanna and Edamame Sushi Grill at the Easton Town Center. I have been a loyal customer of Edamame since I moved here to Columbus and was curious to see this new location. It is also conveniently located a few blocks from my home hockey rink for my team, the Dayton Fangs.

The atmosphere of this venue evokes a romantic atmosphere with its dimly lit open seating while the sushi bar and tall-seating area had a very modern, simplistic look. I recognized one of the sushi chefs from Edamame, and the server also informed me that many of the employees were from the other two restaurants and helping with transition and training.

Choe's Asian Gourmet's menu is very similar to its Columbus couterpart, Asian Gourmet and Sushi Bar, with a few additional entrees and appetizers. There were several other surprises as well, such as the addition of Thai Pad See Ew noodles and different rolls such as the Samurai (pictured below) that isn't available at either of the Columbus locations. I ordered both those entrees and was very impressed with their quality and flavor. For someone looking for a good place to enjoy well-done Asian food, Choe's offers a comprehensive menu of Chinese, Korean, Japanese, and Thai dishes.

Here's the other half of my Samurai roll. Mmm...smoked salmon, cream cheese, and wasabi mayo.
Although this restaurant is still in its beginning stages, it was definitely staffed with extremely experienced servers and chefs. I enjoyed my dinner and look forward to returning there for a pre-game warm-up or post-game victory meal.

 Choe's Asian Gourmet on Urbanspoon

11.26.2010

Here's Another Hockey Miracle to Believe In - Los Angeles Times

I was looking through some old files and found this old article from 1999 about the good old days when I was just a young roller hockey goalie playing in an outdoor rink in Carson, CA and the hockey coach and community that brought many people together to enjoy the wonderful sport of hockey. It's funny to think that this was eleven years ago. Have fun musing about my past.

Here's Another Hockey Miracle to Believe In - Los Angeles Times

11.25.2010

Ride Report: Slippery Noodle Inn, Spa-Style Facials, Indian Food, and November Riding in Champaign, IL

Unless there's a freak warm weather trend, this will most likely be the last multiple state trip until early Spring 2011. This doesn't mean the bike is getting stored away...trips will just have to be shorter and during daylight hours.

The trip back to Urbana-Champaign had me in temperatures of 39-48°F all day. It was sunny and dry all day and the sky didn't leave a clue of the nasty weather that was to come in the next few days. For an early dinner on Tuesday I stopped by the Slippery Noodle Inn, the oldest bar in Indiana. It was opened in 1850 and has functioned as an inn, a stop on the Underground Railroad, and even a brothel. It's now considered to be a popular destination for live blues performances and game watching parties for the Indianapolis Colts (it's across the street from the Lucas Oil Stadium).


11.23.2010

Blog entry test with the Android phone...live from Illinois

I'm currently in Champaign, IL and camping at a Panera Bread store in until my friend returns to her apartment later this evening. It is quite chilly outside (about 30 degrees and falling) so I'm on a coffee and gingerbread regimen. Additionally, I am writing my first blog entry off of an HTC Droid Incredible. I find it disturbing that I can even accomplish this, but I can see now that the laptop is getting closer to being unnecessary for motorcycle travel.

My biggest critique of this phone is definitely battery life. With it running on stand-by I'd be lucky if I can get 12 hours off a single charge. Fortunately the charger is small and easily fits in one of my motorcycle jacket pockets. I also have to get used to typing on a QWERTY keyboard with just my thumbs.

So far, so good. Maybe I'll write something else if I get super bored.
Published with Blogger-droid v1.6.5

11.11.2010

Ride Recap: St. Louis, Root Beer, Santa Claus, and IKEA...only in a Christine ride.

After getting my work schedule scrambled around unexpectedly, I found myself with quite a span of free time on my hands. So I get on Facebook and muse about riding somewhere this week, especially because the weather called for clear and in the 70s during the day, a very unusual weather pattern for a November in the Midwest.
My friend Cris suggests (jokingly, of course) that I go visit her in St. Louis, MO, a very doable 450 miles. Thinking it was a good idea combined with the fact that I was bored and wanted to pile some miles on Eleanor before it got way too cold this year, we shot a few messages back and forth and I was on my way west around 9AM on Tuesday morning. The straight shot down I-70 was pretty uneventful and the weather was just pleasant, trickling into the mid-70s by the early afternoon. This journey would mark my return to St. Louis in nearly three and a half years.

11.02.2010

Bike Preview: 2011 Triumph Sprint GT 1050

While I was en route to Michigan, I stopped over at Thiel's Wheels in Upper Sandusky to see the dealership for the first time. They had the brand new 2011 Triumph Sprint GT on display so I took a few shots of the newest release by the Brits. Of course, this 1050cc triple can be yours for the price tag of $13,199. For more information and specs, click here for Triumph's official page.

Here's the bike in Pacific Blue with optional touring windshield and heated grips.


The symmetrical sidecases can fit a full-face helmet each!



Here's a close-up of the touring windshield.


Here's the Sprint GT in Aluminum Silver with the stock windshield.

10.30.2010

Ride Report: Hockey Heaven is in...Michigan?! My journey to Perani's Hockey World

I decided yesterday to hop on Eleanor and shoot straight up to Flint, MI to see the Perani's Hockey World location there. I received a hot tip to visit that place after going to the North Olmstead, OH location last year and speaking to an employee who then told me that the Flint location was filled with "nostalgia and random old hockey stuff hanging off of walls." Sounded like fun. The catch? Weather was going to be anywhere from 45-50°F during daylight hours to the mid-30s in the evening, which would be a slight problem at prolonged highway speeds. I went through all my warm gear suited myself up with the following:

Top:
BIKERS COMFORT IN ACTION ST-Wind Balaclava
Schampa Warmskin Skinny Shirt
The North Face Technical Fleece Jacket
Gerbings T-5 Heated Gloves
Aerostitch Roadcrafter Jacket

Bottom:
Schampa Warmskin Skinny Pant
Vega Meridian Pants
Aerostitch Darien Pants
Alpinestars Web Gore-Tex Boots

Additionally, my Garmin Zumo 550 that had served me well for the last 65,000 miles had been sent back to Garmin after screen failure in Chicago. So, in its place, I rigged my HTC Incredible phone to the bike using a Universal PDA clamp mount from RAM Mounts to my bike and connected its power via the rarely-used 12V plug inside my front driver's compartment and an extremely slim 12V to USB adapter so I could use its navigation and listen to the very free (and very awesome) Pandora Internet Radio. This isn't a waterproof setup by any means; but it was just fine because there was no chance for precipitation at all.

10.25.2010

Food Review: Wings Over Columbus (near OSU campus)

I got out of work yesterday and had a hankering for some made-to-order chicken wings. So, I went to Wings Over Columbus for dinner. It's a small place that's literally an order window, a three-seat booth, and a small TV surrounded by vintage pictures of airplanes. To go with the whole airplane theme, combinations of wings were named after famous planes such as the "DC-10" and "F-16." Additionally, they also sell ribs and wraps.

For my meal I ordered three flavors of wings: sweet onion BBQ (sauce), garlic parmasean (dry dusted), and mustang ranch (dry dusted). The wings were large, plump, and very juicy. However, I was quite disappointed by the lack of distinct flavor of the sauces and how much I could still taste "just the chicken." In fact, I couldn't tell the difference in taste between the garlic parmasean and mustang ranch and thought for a moment that I was only given two flavors. It was only the contrasting colors of seasonings that confirmed that I indeed had three flavors. For sides, I think they could've done better with their french fries. It was obvious that they were frozen, and they look like the same ones served by Raising Cane's Chicken Fingers.

I ate at the small booth; I was on a motorcycle and was pretty hungry. My hands were a little grungy after delving into the chicken and standard paper napkins weren't enough. I was surprised that they were unable to supply me wet towelettes or even a cup of water (they were going to charge me $1 for a bottled one). So I guess this place was truly for "take-out" only. I would've expected a place that sold wings and ribs, or any food place that serves messy food for that matter, to have those BBQ-eating necessities.

I will still stand by my opinion that the Wing Stop chain has, by far, the best tasting wings anywhere that I've been. If you're looking to feed a crowd at a tailgate, this place would work just fine; they offer wing deals for large parties. However, for extra-tasty personal indulgence, there are many other wing-based restaurants out there to enjoy with better tasting wings and flavored sauces. Looks like I'm going to have ride 165 miles north to Mentor-on-the-Lake, OH for a tasting of the good stuff at Wing Stop, the only location in the entire state of Ohio; that or just go back to one of the over 50 locations in CA.

 Wings Over Columbus on Urbanspoon

10.22.2010

Food Review: Todai Seafood Buffet (Schaumburg, IL)

I enjoyed this restaurant from the week Matt and I got married so I'll share this review with you all.

Matt, our friend Victor, and I had the opportunity to have our fill of seafood at the Todai Seafood Buffet inside of the Woodfield Shopping Center in Schaumburg, IL before I had to take Victor back on his plane to Long Beach. We were super hungry, so the perk of "all-you-can-eat" was all we needed to get in the door. This is definitely a buffet I'd like to visit again.

To summarize the place, imagine a long buffet line filled with gobs and gobs of all-you-can-eat sushi, sashimi, and hot Japanese/Chinese food. I had my share of fresh raw salmon, Hawaiian ahi poke by the scoop, and hand-made rolls galore. For those desiring hot food, there was also a selection of soups, cooked fish and other sea creatures, rice, and noodles. I think I overdosed on pickled ginger too. :)

My only criticism of the place is that they charged for beverages other than water, but the approximately $20 per person tab is a small price to pay for the amount of freshly served seafood. Additionally, this Todai's main focus is definitely not on aesthetics as it resembles more of a cafeteria with Japanese accents. It's a straight-up buffet-style restaurant, so don't expect it to be a romantic place; it's not like you're looking around and enjoying the atmosphere while you're sucking down fish!

I had known about Todai Seafood Buffet before (there are several locations in Southern CA and in Las Vegas) but this was the first time I got to eat there. I'd like to go back sometime, but the two (soon to be three) closest locations to Columbus are in northeast Illinois and Virginia. Sounds like another series motorcycle rides. And as you know, I have been known to ride Eleanor to places just for the food.

To find locations near you, visit http://www.todai.com. Mmm...sushi.

Food Review: Eastern Palace (Reynoldsburg, OH)

I've been a member of Restaurant.com for about two years, and have used it as a way to try new food places without plunking down the entire bill. It's a website where you would purchase gift certificates at discount prices to use at supporting restaurants, many of them non-chain, off-the-wall, and individually owned places. For me, it's usually a chance to explore a new food establishment and try dishes that I wouldn't otherwise order.

My curiosity and a gift certificate led Matt and me to Eastern Palace in Reynoldsburg for a casual dinner for two. It's an Asian restaurant with gourmet Chinese food and Japanese sushi. Despite its very plain appearance on the outside, its interior was very clean and comfortable and was even set up for private parties or receptions. We sat in a booth that had a great view of a big screen TV so we even got to watch sports highlights on ESPN while we ate.

We decided to get a full, three-course meal. For our appetizers, we ordered a lobster sushi roll and a combination platter for two that contained chicken egg rolls, chicken wings, crab rangoon, and beef sticks. I was impressed by the appetizer's its presentation; there was a small flaming pot in the middle of the plate. The lobster roll was served in a traditional arrangement. Everything was perfectly cooked, and the sushi was fresh and delectable.

For our main course, Matt got an orange chicken dish and I went for a Hong Kong-style crispy noodle plate. It was very obvious that the chefs were very sensitive to flavor. The sauce in the orange chicken was light, yet flavorful, and I could still taste chicken underneath the crispy fried exterior of the chicken pieces. The crispy noodles on my plate appeared (and tasted) made-to-order and were well complemented with a light sauce, shrimp, chicken, and an assortment of snow peas and other vegetables. To finish things off, we had delicious green tea ice cream.

I'd definitely recommend this place to anyone who is looking for good Chinese cuisine and sushi. Not surprisingly, TripAdvisor.com even rates this restaurant in the top 25 in the Columbus area. For this website's reviews, click here.

 Eastern Palace on Urbanspoon

10.17.2010

Gear Review: Vega Meridian Pants

I had the chance to test out the Vega Meridian Pants for my ride up to Chicago. I had been looking for a pair of pants that would fit underneath my overpants that would provide the warmth that regular jeans could not. I was thoroughly impressed with this pair of pants, especially because they combine a windproof outer material and a super-warm fleece liner. Additionally, their soft texture eliminated the chafing feeling that you can get from wearing jeans on a motorcycle for a prolonged period of time.

One issue I did have with these pants was their length. They do not come in a "short" sizing (I have a 29" inseam and these pants were almost 34" in a size 2X) so hemming may be necessary for a custom fit. Fortunately I was able to tuck the excess material into my tall Alpinestars boots which also kept my calves quite warm. These pants fit quite snugly and are very form fitting to help with maintaining body warmth so if you're used to more relaxed fit jeans, it can take a little adjustment.


From a cold resistance standpoint, I was very comfortable, if not, unusually warm, even when temps dropped down to 45°F while traveling interstate speeds on I-290 heading to Itasca. I can imagine combining this layer with my Schampa Warmskin Skinny Pants for maximum insulation from those sub-freezing temps.

This is definitely an asset to any cold weather rider's collection. They also look nice so they can pass for normal casual wear. I would even stretch its use to other fall/winter sports or for prolonged days outside in the nippy cold. Vega advertises the Meridians as a "sub-layer," so they're not made to take much abrasion. I would consider them to be a sub-layer underneath overpants. And at a reasonable price tag of $49.99 it's an inexpensive way to stay warm and stylish.

I'm back!

Whew! After all those adventures in Chicago and recovering from that, it's back to this blog. As the riding "season" comes to close, I'll be putting up more gear reviews and blurbs about cold weather riding and how to cope with that white stuff called snow. Hopefully this winter in Ohio will be a lot milder than last year, but then again, it's Ohio.

9.20.2010

Two-Wheeled Tourist is taking a detour...

I'm taking a quick break from this blog and riding on over to...


Two-Wheeled Wedding!


Matt and I are getting married on October 6 and are covering the whole thing online on the blog site mentioned above. I'll be resuming normal blog activity here in the middle of October. Until then, enjoy the festivities as we tie the knot in Chicago, IL!

9.13.2010

Why I miss lane splitting...

[For the definition of lane-splitting or lane sharing, click here.]

The motorcycle is one of the most agile motorized vehicles on the planet. In my home state of California I used my motorcycle to get from point A to point B with efficiency – in many cases I didn't have much of a choice thanks to the multitudes of cars at any time of the day that would, literally, sit in front of me with every place to be and no where to go. A commute that would normally take 2.5 hours in a car would be chopped in half thanks to the privilege only allowed by one state in the US: lane sharing or "splitting." It was a ballet, a dance in between lines, in a lane that fit us motorcyclists perfectly. After a year here in Ohio, I long for the opportunity to take that dance again.

Here's the problem. Lane sharing is downright illegal in all parts of the US except for California. I will admit, there aren't as many reasons to utilize this tool in a motorcyclist's kit of skills out here; “Rush Hour” only lasts an hour during the morning and late afternoon. However, the aggressive driving culture here and the occasional disregard for the safety of other motorists makes me wish it was allowed by law.

An Ohio native once told me, “There are four seasons in Ohio: Spring, Summer, Winter, and Road Construction.” At any time of the year there's a closed lane, a road being resurfaced, or a new detour that lengthens the commute significantly. The problems then arise when drivers in “cages” (cars) are forced to adjust their driving to reflect the situation. This is where they fail miserably at merging, right-of-way rules, and speed control. Before you know it traffic is gnarled due to one person trying to merge immediately or not allowing another driver to go ahead of them like it's some sort of race. The “zipper rule” (one car from each lane merging in an alternating sequence) doesn't exist out here. And here I am in the stop-and-go burning up my motorcycle's clutch and my patience. I peek through the lanes, weave in my own, and think to myself, “I could totally split past all this crap.” And then I envision the car that will get in my way to try to crunch me out of spite.

In an ideal situation in CA, my bike will pass between cars for as long as there is at least ½ a car width of an opening. I maintain my speed according to the flow of traffic – CA law calls for no faster than 10MPH above the speed of the surrounding cars. I would not want to try it here; drivers that realize you're smarter than them will try to kill you. For those moments in gridlock and my subtle attempts to squeeze into little spaces, everyone suddenly appears to be trying out for starting linebacker position at Ohio State. Then comes the unnecessary merging, opening of doors (or the threat thereof), cursing and swearing...and only because I've just placed myself a couple cars in front of you. Spiteful bastards.

On the other hand, CA folks have already admitted defeat to the traffic situation in the Golden State. They know the bikes will be the only vehicles to pass through the gridlock. In fact, many cars and buses will facilitate the motorcyclists' journey by nudging themselves over several inches to allow the bikes to squeak through. Of course, there are some bikers that take too many liberties in zooming excessively fast along these “fourth lanes.” If you've ridden outside of CA, you learn that the lane split is a privilege that should be used responsibly and not a right by virtue of a motorcycle's slim profile, at least in 49 of the 50 states and Canada.

Let's face it fellow motorcyclists, Ohio car drivers will never change. Even if lane splitting is legalized in this state, there will still be cagers with homicidal tendencies that will never admit defeat. It is only with a drastic change in motorist culture that we as motorcyclists will be free to use our bikes the way they were designed, taking advantage of their agility, power, and gracefulness in the smallest of drivable lanes. Until then I'll be looking behind me in hopes I don't get rear-ended by some cell-phone texting teenager or trucker.

Thanks to seven years of CA riding, there's always that escape route, the valley that looks like three inches between car to car yet is three feet wide to me, the motorcyclist. Until you take a ride on a bike and relish those advantages, you'll never understand.

9.12.2010

MSF Dirtbike School...because romping off-road is fun!

On September 11 I had the chance to participate in the Motorcycle Safety Foundation's Dirtbike School on the MSF's main campus in Troy, OH, about 100 miles from Columbus. It was a brisk ride there (it was about 55 degrees until about 10AM) but the mild weather was great for the five hours that I along with seven other riders would be outdoors on the dirt range.


The class began with a short classroom session explaining the parts of a dirtbike, and in our case (the class was made up of all experienced street riders) similarities and differences to on-road motorcycles. Additionally, we were introduced to the basics of off-road protective gear, their functions, and their differences from regular streetbike equipment. We suited up and headed outside; I took advantage of their stock of off-road protective gear and tried out a pair of tall dirtbike boots and a motocross helmet for the session.

When we got out on the dirtbikes (I was on a Honda CRF150 for this class), we started with several exercises that mimicked those of the Basic Rider Course such as clutch actuation, starting, stopping, and shifting gears. I realized very quickly that despite the looseness of the terrain the dirtbike had loads of traction to play with and I simply had to “allow” the thing to swish around and negotiate the unevenness on its own. The design of these bikes from the lightweight frame to the vast amount of suspension travel made riding through dirt and rocks as effortless as riding a standard motorcycle down the street. I also learned dirt-specific techniques such as counterbalancing a bike (placing your body weight opposite to the bike's path of travel while turning) and maneuvering the bike while standing up. During one of the exercises, I stalled my bike and tipped over, but I wrestled the bike back up and continued on with the drills. By the end of the course I found myself romping up and down hills, running over 2x4 pieces of wood, and sloshing through the mud without much thought at all. Yahoo!

For the longest time I have had a near-phobia of gravel because of the strange feeling I would get when those tires started sloshing around and digging into the dirt and rocks, not to mention that I had previously crashed in loose gravel during a poorly-plannned shortcut on a group ride two years ago. I feel like this class has helped me tremendously in getting over those fears and really opened up the possibilities for dual-sport and trail riding in my future. I know that with as many miles as I ride and as many strange places I visit seeing dirt will be inevitable. However, I feel more prepared when I encounter these conditions again.

If you're either a newbie thinking of getting onto a road bike for the firsts time or a seasoned street rider I recommend this class not only for the fun factor but also for the experience of running a motorcycle through uneven terrain. This class caters to riders as young as 6 years of age, and the only requirement is that you must know how to ride a bicycle. I recommend taking a day and going for it; it'll be the best $50 you'll spend in a while.

For more information about the MSF Dirtbike Course and where to take it, visit http://www.dirtbikeschool.com/.

9.07.2010

Ride Route: SE Ohio Sampler

I had today off so I decided to dabble a little bit into the roads of SE Ohio, one of the few parts of the state that isn't completely flat. Many motorcyclists I've talked to at my work have told me stories about that area of Ohio and gave me the simplest advice when traveling down there for the first time.

"Any triple-digit state route is wonderful. Just find one and go for it."

And they were right! After running down US-33 through Hocking Hills and Nelsonville and a small portion of US-50 (it leads all the way to Washington, D.C. by the way), I did a couple of those famed roads, including a short preview of the "Triple Nickel" (OH State Rte. 555). My favorite one at the moment is OH-676 that involved super curvy hill climbs through forests of trees. I closed the straight route home with OH-60 along the Muskigum River and a slab down I-70. Of course, this is just the beginning. All of these roads head right into West Virginia and North Kentucky where there's even more of the crazy twisties.

Somewhere on OH-676, I did answer the age old question, "Why did the chicken(s) cross the road?" I had to slow down to make sure the cluckers made it to the other side.

Point of advice: these roads are definitely NOT for beginners. If you're a newb at this whole motorcycle riding and cornering bit, I suggest practicing on simpler roads or taking it real easy. There's lots of gravel at intersections and where you least expect it. Additionally, you have to keep your eyes on the road and on the signs or you'll end up in a turnout and in someone's driveway. These are not the kind of roads that one can do at 70 MPH. Even after doing these types of roads for the last six years I was still on my toes, but it was definitely an entertaining experience and it gave Eleanor an excuse to his 93,000 on the odometer.

Route is below. Total miles: 243.


View Larger Map

9.03.2010

My Adventures with Josey the Sea Lion

Last month I had a visitor with me who followed me wherever me and my motorcycle traveled. Her name is Josey (a loose translation of San Jose), and she's a sea lion. She's also the 2011 Women On Wheels ® Ride-In Ambassador for next year's event in San Jose, CA. I first met her in Stratton, VT during this year's Ride-In as she was introduced during the closing ceremonies.


The Buckeye State Lady Riders received the honor of being the first shipping recipient of Josey. In the two and a half weeks she was with the chapter, she accomplished the following:

- 2430 miles on a motorcycle
- 1 Iron Butt SaddleSore 1000 from Columbus, OH to Spartanburg, SC and back covering seven states (OH, KY, TN, NC, SC, VT, WV)
- trips all over Columbus and the surrounding area
- visited the Columbus Zoo, Dublin and Easton Chiller Rinks, the Longaberger Basket, Motohio European Motorbikes, and the AMA Museum and Hall of Fame to name a few
- attended an MSF Beginner Riders Course
- visited ALL five WOW Ohio chapters (Buckeye State Lady Riders, Dayton Wright Lady Riders, Queen City Lady Riders, Ohio River Valley Vixens, and the Cleveland Rumble Pack)

So what's the deal with this traveling stuffed animal? For those new to the Ride-In Ambassador, here's a little explanation:

Every WOW Ride-In has a Ride-In Ambassador (RIA) that travels the country visiting chapters all over the United States. Chapters place their requests for the RIA after that year's Ride-In and a schedule is set up for its stopovers. Over the years, WOW RIAs (and the WOW members that accompany it) have ended up in the most interesting places, and photos taken with it are shown at the following year's Ride-In. The RIA changes every year to reflect the uniqueness of the area where the Ride-In will be held. For example, 2009's RIA was a steer (Kerville, TX) and 2010's RIA was a jersey cow (Stratton, VT). Since WOW's headed to the West Coast (San Jose, CA) in 2011, she's a sea lion.

To commemorate her trip through Ohio and a few surrounding states, I made this slideshow with some of the best photos of her stops here and there. Josey will eventually make her way back to San Jose, CA just in time for the festivities on July 5-7, 2011. Thanks, Josey, for hanging out with us in the Buckeye State!

This slideshow is dedicated in memory of Diana Thornton, our fallen BSLR founding member (and long-time San Jose, CA resident) who passed away on August 15, 2010 after a courageous battle with cancer. Josey poses with Diana's husband of 50 years, Scott, their two sons, her best friend, and grandson in the second to last photo. The slideshow closes with Josey sitting on her 2009 Honda Shadow Aero 750. Diana, you will be dearly missed...ride on, and "take the long way home."

My first [documented] Iron Butt SaddleSore 1000

On August 21 I completed my first [documented] Iron Butt SaddleSore 1000. By definition this is a journey of 1000 miles in 24 hours or less. The first time I rode a thousand miles in under 24 hours was from Roswell, NM to LAX. However, this 17-hour ride was not officially documented per the requirements of the Iron Butt Association, the governing body that sanctions these long-distance motorcycle rides. I figured I might as well make it "official" and go for it.

The route I took is below. I took a circular route starting and ending in Lewis Center, OH by way of Spartanburg, SC (Matt suggested this city because it's where the BMW Z3 roadster was manufactured - he used to have one). As with any long distance ride this one had a few obstacles to deal with, the most annoying being rain. I was in the middle of a constant downpour for three of the seven states I cross (NC, SC, WV) and as I rode into the evening hours the deluges affected my visibility to the point that getting down the highway required every ounce of willpower and concentration I could muster.


View Larger Map

Now my route for this SaddleSore 1000 was not the easiest one to ride by far. However, it was very scenic and, when combined with the light misty rains that dotted North Carolina and a couple other places, hauntingly beautiful. Of course, one easy way out was "slabbing" I-70 West toward St. Louis, MO, turning right back around and heading straight to Columbus. But I couldn't pass up the opportunity to finally add North and South Carolina to my list of crossed states, now bringing the total to 39. I look forward to the day I can return and enjoy more of these states and not be on such a severe time crunch.

But then regular riders ask, "How do you do a thousand miles in a day?" It's a lot of miles but it's not so bad with some proper riding conditioning. If you're considering attempting one of these Iron Butt runs, here are some pointers I'd suggest.

Prepping Yourself
1. Learn to manage the miles. Building up the tolerance to do those distances takes practice and time. Ride. Ride everywhere. Ride in adverse conditions and to different destinations. Did I mention ride?

2. Hydrate. Drinks lots of water before, during, and after your ride. Get a Camelback or other hydration system that's easy to access while you're tooling down the road.

3. Snack a lot, big meal later. You won't have much time to eat, but get something in you. Energy bars and bananas are great. Increase protein intake and decrease carbs - those will only make you drowsier.

4. Wear the proper riding gear. Develop a system of equipment to combat any weather or temperature situation. Try accessories such as heated gear, soakable cooling vests, and packable rain suits.

Prepping Your Bike
1. As you practice doing the miles, reflect on your personal comfort needs. Do I need a new seat, sheepskin, gel pad? Would a cruise control aid/device come in handy? Are my handlebars, foot controls, etc. ergonomically sound? Do I need to change/remove/upgrade my windshield? The list goes on and on. Multitudes of motorcycle accessories are available to adjust your motorcycle to suit your style. A little research goes a long way.

2. Complete essential and major services before you take off. Do that oil change. Lube that chain. Perform that major service interval. Change the tires if they're almost worn out. Your bike will perform at its best when it gets its necessary TLC.

3. Learn your bike's quirks. That two wheeled machine between your legs is a friend you'll learn to know intimately. Take time to do research and learn its special needs. The less you learn the hard way the better.

And finally...what kind of motorcycle should I use?
The "best" motorcycle for an Iron Butt depends on the rider and the type of roads to be crossed. For riding interstates for prolonged periods of time, a larger engine displacement bike would be ideal because of the lower revs the bike needs to maintain those higher speeds. Additionally, a heavier bike with a fairing and windshield would cut down on the fatigue caused by wind blast. Larger bikes also equate to larger gas tanks so you'll be minimizing the amount of stops to get from point to point.

In this case, my FJR1300 has been my weapon of choice as well as that of many an Iron Butt participant because of its smoothness at higher speeds, generous wind protection, luggage room, and versatility to accommodate many types of riders. There are many bikes out there that are designed to do the miles; the challenge is to find the one that's right for you.

For more tips and tricks on surviving the long haul, Iron Butt Association has a wonderful "Archive of Wisdom" @ http://www.ironbutt.com/tech/aowprintout.cfm.

A Year in Ohio: a retrospective

This week officially marks a year in Ohio, 2500 miles away from the state I called home for 24 years. It was a move that turned heads and alienated many a friend and family member from me. However, it opened many new opportunities for travel, adventure, and exploration of different career paths and social environments. Thanks to this move I have been able to venture through the Northeast and parts of the Southeast United States on my motorcycle. I have met many people that don't have the "big city" mentality and are friendlier because they can be. Perhaps I can consider that to be a good thing, however this stay in Ohio is a vacation that I would like to end.

In some cases the peace and quiet can be nerve-wracking. There are days when I do miss being in a constant state of movement and always having "something to do." To make for that I find more things to do that are more worthwhile. It was a risk to leave and a daring move to start anew in a place so far away. We left because we couldn't afford CA. We left because starting a new life together in CA would be impossible. I chose to leave to break away from 24 years of being told, "No, you cannot do this. It's not proper, and why can't you be the perfect daughter." As a result of my desire to do what I want I will be punished until I choose to conform to tradition and structure.

I know my decisions will always be criticized and torn apart by others, and with time I will be convinced that this move was well worth the gamble. At least, for the most part, I am not alone in this journey.

Someday I hope to return home to CA. By that time it'll be a different world where I am forgotten and sent to the pages of old memories and shades of the past. At the least when my two wheels touch the West Coast again, I will still have the ocean, the twisted roads that overlook it, and the flashbacks of a stage of life that has run its course. I know one thing is certain; nothing is permanent and things can be lost in an instant. You deal and move on.

8.15.2010

Food Review: Raising Cane's Chicken Fingers

There aren't very many places that exclusively sell cooked-to-order chicken fingers. Until my visit to the Raising Cane's Chicken Fingers location at Polaris Parkway, I didn't know what "good" chicken fingers tasted like. In fact, what I found was surprising and absolutely marvelous.

When I entered the uniquely decorated store (it has nostalgic movie posters and historic photos of Westerville, OH), I was immediately greeted by the cashier. I asked him what he recommended for a first-timer, and he goes ahead and gives me a free sample chicken finger with its secret sauce. I took a bite and was immediately impressed by the freshness, tenderness, and flavor of the chicken combined with the sauce that was tangy yet had a slight spice kick. The sauce was so good that it made the fries taste amazing. Additionally, their in-store brewed sweet tea was delicious and I was back several times for refills.

Its menu is simple: chicken fingers, the secret sauce, and a couple sides to go with it (i.e. Texas Toast, a toasted kaiser bun, cole slaw, and fries). It turns out that their chicken (breast pieces) is marinated overnight and cooked to order. I would even be bold to say that this place trumps Chick Fil-A's chicken strips and those are pretty good, too! I will definitely be back for another round of those strips and sweet tea.

Raising Cane's (the restaurant is named after the founder's dog) can be considered to be a prime example of success in chasing the American Dream. Founded by Todd Graves, it found its humble roots from pure sweat and determination to "fry chicken." You can read up on its history, drool at the menu, and find locations near you by visiting their website at http://www.raisingcanes.com/.

 Raising Canes on Urbanspoon

8.11.2010

Eleanor hits 90,000 miles...a retrospective.

It's an achievement that most motorcycles will never see, and I'm glad that I've been able to accomplish it on Eleanor. It took 1201 days (3 years, 3 months, 14 days) for Eleanor and me to hit the big 90k mark. Looking forward for many more to go!

Here's some of the dates and locations where we've hit some interesting numbers:

Mile 1: Los Angeles, CA (April 26, 2007) - she was delivered to me at work and I rode her right out of the parking lot
Mile 10000: Minneapolis, MN (July 13, 2007)
Mile 20000: San Francisco, CA (December 25, 2007) - my first big ride with Matt
Mile 33333: La Habra, CA (June 3, 2008)
Mile 54321: Irvine, CA (February, 15, 2009)
Mile 85000: Niagara Falls, ON, Canada (May 31, 2010)
Mile 90000: Westerville, OH (August 8, 2010)

Here's some other fun milestones to add.
States crossed: 37 (still missing Wisconsin - will be crossed in 10/10, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Montana, Oregon, Washington, Alaska, Hawaii - might be a challenge)
Countries visited: 2 (United States and Canada)
# of Women On Wheels® International Ride-Ins: 3 (2007 - Springfield, MO, 2009 - Kerville, TX, 2010 - Stratton, VT)
Longest Round-trip Ride: 6200 miles (LA/Columbus/Kerville, TX/Roswell, NM/LAX)
Longest Single-day Ride: 1004 miles (Roswell, NM to LAX)
Miles Matt and I have been together: 70,000

Now, it hasn't been all sunny days and roses with her. She's had a few electrical issues but have long been corrected. Her engine is still running happy and strong and that's what matters. So far she's on the standard oil change and visual checkup regimen.

Eleanor's still gearing for a lot more adventures with me. One of my ultimate goals is to hit Alaska with her...at the rate I'm going it sounds like a possibility!

7.30.2010

Why You Can Ride a Large Engine Displacement Motorcycle

There comes a time in a motorcycle rider's career when he/she begins to consider moving up to a larger displacement motorcycle. In this case, this would involve transitioning from entry level bikes (250cc to 500cc) to intermediate or advanced bikes (600cc and up). Often times, I would hear the following statement from a fellow rider.

"That bike is too big for me." or "I can't handle a motorcycle like that."

If you're a new rider or one that hasn't had much exposure to other motorcycles out there, the thought of changing to another bike can sound daunting or even scary. However, if you've spent lots of time on the road with your current machine and felt confident in controlling it, trying a new motorcycle is actually a confidence booster. Simply put, handling a larger machine confidently is a demonstration of the skills you have learned and mastered on your smaller bike.

Why move to a larger displacement bike? Here are some popular reasons for doing so.

1. Personal Goals: What are your goals as a motorcyclist? Are you planning to use your bike to commute more often? Are all-day trips commonplace for you? Is a cross-country or statewide trip somewhere in your future? Will you/are you taking passengers on your bike?

2. Challenge: Does your motorcycle meet your needs in terms of utility, features, power, and speed? Are you satisfied with the motorcycle's performance in many of your riding situations? Do you feel that you've "mastered" your motorcycle and taken it to its limits?

3. Long-term Comfort: A larger engine works a lot less to maintain highway speeds. Additionally, it is smoother at lower gears and doesn't need to be revved as high to zip around. A heavier bike is more stable on the highway and through curves. Thinking about carrying cargo with you? Larger bikes have more seat room and some come with hard luggage. Some bikes even have the ability to tow trailers!

My reason to upgrade to my 2007 Yamaha FJR1300A came from a combination of those three factors. My last bike, a 2005 Suzuki SV650N, was my primary mode of transportation during college. During that time, I found myself going on weekend trips that easily topped 400 miles in a single day, sometimes taking rides from Los Angeles to San Francisco on a whim. I enjoyed the nimbleness of my v-twin standard bike (it taught me the fine art of taming the twisties) but the vibration of the engine at prolonged highway speeds was doing a number on my wrists and hands, not to mention that the lightweight nature of the bike made it easy for passing big rigs to toss me around. Lastly, my future goals as a motorcyclist involved traveling coast to coast and visiting every state in the United States. As this would be very possible on this bike, it wouldn't be the most comfortable ride to accomplish this task. After much research in finding a bike that was more powerful yet still fulfilled my needs for agility and speed, I went for the FJR1300, a touring motorcycle with the spirit of a sport bike and the ample luggage space to carry everything I needed to go anywhere I wanted. So far, I’m well on my way to accomplishing those state-crossing, mileage-racking goals.

Me and my 2005 SV650N in early 2007

Going for the bigger motorcycle is an ambitious task and does take a bit of courage to step up and try something new. Before I took the jump, I went out to several test ride events hosted by dealers and motorcycle programs and popped around on as many different bikes as I could. This way I learned the peculiarities of various models and also tuned in on what I needed and wanted as a rider. In the last seven years I have tested over two dozen motorcycles and, although I have been very happy with my current ride, still look for opportunities to stay abreast with the latest trends and technology. (I also find it funny to tell the burly male bikers that I've ridden motorcycles with engines larger than theirs.)

Still a little worried? You are not "re-learning" to ride when you jump on a new bike. Here are several fears that I've heard from riders, and many of them are unwarranted. Don't doubt your skills as a motorcyclist; you didn't come this far to stop now.

1. "I'm going to pop the clutch, ram the throttle too hard, etc...it's going to wheelie/flip/throw me off/go out of control." There is nothing different about the way a large motorcycle operates mechanically from a smaller bike. When trying a new bike, feather the clutch to find that particular bike's "friction zone" (when the bike starts to move forward). It varies from bike to bike and can respond immediately or have some play to it. Take it easy on the throttle. Once you've found the right combination of throttle and clutch, you can make any bike controllable regardless of size and power.

2. "The bike is too heavy." Yes, there may be a little bit more mass to push up straight from the kickstand, but once it's upright you're ready to take off. As you've learned in basic motorcycle training, the bike becomes more upright as you decelerate. A motorcycle that is straight and upright feels more weightless, and the role of your feet is to keep it that way as it slows to a complete stop. Focus more on smooth stops and understanding the weight balancing of the bike and you’ll do just fine.

3. “The brakes will be too sensitive on a new/different/unfamiliar bike.” In some cases, this is true. However, you wouldn’t grab a ‘handful’ of brake on your small bike, so why would you do it to a larger one? Braking systems have become more responsive and all it takes is one or two fingers to fully activate a front brake. This is mostly the case on the larger bikes, so take it easy on the test ride by increasing your stopping distance until you’ve accustomed yourself to the brakes.

4. "The bike is too tall." Although having both feet flat on the ground helps new riders gain confidence, you do not have to have both feet on the ground to control a bike when stopped. The belief that this is necessary has limited many riders from trying potentially awesome bikes. Not too sure of what you can handle? Go to a dealership and sit on several taller motorcycles. You will find that keeping the bike upright is easier than you think. One popular method is scooting your butt over on the seat so that the left foot is perfectly flat on the ground. It's the same way shorter people ride dirtbikes. In this position, your right foot is always near the rear brake to control the bike's movement or to stop the bike completely. Some riders have even gone to modifying their riding boots (i.e. elevator soles) to get on the motorcycle of their dreams or lowering the bike itself. Depending on the motorcycle, physically lowering it can adversely affect its handling physics and performance so this option is often used as a last resort.

All props go to the small, mistake-forgiving displacement bikes to get you to where you are today. They're stepping stones to your improvement as a rider. So what are you waiting for? Go to a test ride at your local dealership or motorcycle event. Even if it's a brand that you're not even considering it's worth the experience. The bikes you'll have the chance to ride are only limited by your ambition. Ride safe!

7.27.2010

Ride Reviews: Triumph Thunderbird 1600, Tiger 1050, Rocket III Roadster

I had the chance to test ride a few Triumph motorcycles last Saturday at MOTOHIO European Motorbikes in Columbus. This was the first time I had the chance to officially test ride motorcycles since going to the last Femmoto event in Las Vegas in October 2008 and it was a nice change of pace instead of working a full day at my store. Oh dear, such a punishment for me! Okay, fine...it was in the mid 90s and sweltering hot. That was something six bottles of water and a few hot dogs fixed quite easily.

So first up to the plate was the Thunderbird 1600. It's a parallel twin powerhouse on two wheels (and I haven't even made it to the Rocket III yet). For its size it was well-balanced and felt like a much lighter bike. It had quick acceleration and every gear was smooth, making shifting effortless. I was cranking this machine through the turns and it responded to my every command. For cruiser-style bikes, it's difficult to find one that doesn't make twisties feel like a laborious task and this one definitely proved itself to be an agile winner. Additionally, its seat height is quite neutral; I'm 5'5" and was flatfooted on it. However, because of the location of its forward controls, I found myself either overstretching slightly or reaching for the levers, suggesting that the ergonomics are more for someone who is several inches taller. Aside from that, if you're looking for a power cruiser that's fun, agile, and has the potential to keep up with the sporties, this is definitely a bike for you.


The Tiger 1050 SE has now earned a place in my top three list of future, full-time utility motorcyles that could take my FJR1300's place whenever it decides to retire. It's upright, enduro-style posture was comfortable and made me feel taller. It's agile and smooth at any speed at any gear, and has power to boot. I had a great time running that triple-cylinder engine through the gears and its constant spunk reminded me that it had torque to spare. I was also surprised by the firmness and comfort of the stock seat, too. My major criticisms of it are that it doesn't have the same luxury options as the FJR such as an electric, extendable windshield and large plastic fairing for those jaunts in the late fall/winter months. Additionally, it's chain-driven so there's a little bit more maintenance issues involved, especially on long-distance runs. Also, the stock sidecases aren't large enough; one sidecase's cargo room is compromised due to the bike's exhaust pipe, and the larger sidecase can't fit a single full-face helmet...it definitely needs a top case or aftermarket sidecases. The 32.5" seat height will take a little getting used to as well. Otherwise, it's a contender to the low-seat, low-frame BMW R1200GS.


The last ride of the day was a reunion of sorts with the Rocket III Roadster. I had my first encounter with the world's largest production bike in 2007 when I rode it to kill time while getting the 8000 mile service on my FJR in Lakeville, Minnesota. This 2010 version, however, is the souped up roadster version. Triumph has gone ahead and made a leaner and meaner edition of its excellently designed high engine displacement machine.


Its powerband can be summarized in one word: torque. This thing gets you moving on sheer power. The 2294cc engine was barely trying to get me moving; I was never above 3rd gear at any given time (the thing has five gears). I slammed this bike into a curve and it leaned effortlessly through it. I hope to try the fully dressed touring model someday; that is one that screams for a towing hitch and an accompanying trailer. I applaud Triumph for creating and improving a bike that, not only has an engine larger and with more torque than most economy cars, but also thinks it's a bicycle and eats curves as if it were one. My only criticism is ergos; the location of the pegs on the Roadster had my knees up higher than I would like for long distances. Then again, this thing is intended to be a short-distance hooligan...for longer trips it's the touring edition.

In general, every Triumph excels in agility, smoothness, and braking power. All you need to do as a rider is find the one that fits your personality. For me it's the upright styled Tiger 1050. Of course, with the constant evolution of motorcycle technology that could change in the next several years. Oh well, Eleanor isn't going anywhere for a long time, and I wouldn't want her to, anyway. :)

7.23.2010

My rant of a random Ohio driver (and others of that kind).

I had one of the strangest moments on a motorcycle involving a truck on the road yesterday (Thursday) evening. I'm coming home from my WOW meeting at the Tuttle Mall and traveling south on I-270. I'm the left lane doing about 75MPH (the speed limit is 65MPH). I then see this older, brown mid-sized pickup truck behind me change lanes, accelerate quickly, and blast past me doing over 80 and speeding away. I'm thinking it's another typical person in a hurry; I get passed on 270 regardless of how fast I'm going and what lane I'm in. It's very common around here in Ohio; they know you have a motorcycle and want to one-up you just to raise their self-esteem by two notches. I'd just let them go. I have never exercised my right to twist my throttle 1/4 a turn for triple digit acceleration out of anger.

I then get home and jump on the computer, logging onto my e-mail and one of the motorcycle message boards I read. There's a private message waiting for me, and I click it. It turns out that the driver of the truck that passed me recognized my bike and was also part of the same message board. Here's the message this person left (names and slogans have been covered up to protect the one I scratch my head at).


Now I normally don't get irked by these kind of things, but I'm actually more confused than anything else. It was a calm Thursday and I had nobody in my lane tailgating me so I figured my spacing was sufficient. Additionally, if I compare this to California traffic (for all my friends back home), what I was in was the equivalent of the 405 freeway at about 11PM so pretty much a very low volume of cars but enough for the freeway to look used. If I what I was doing (10 over posted speed limit) was too slow then sure, I should've been in the next lane over. If this person was so much in a hurry, the truck should have continued at 85 MPH all the way instead of wasting it on just passing me, the "obstruction." However, when I looked at the description of the bike that this person rides, it doesn't surprise me that I was passed like it was the final lap of MotoGP. Additionally, I don't know how a motorcycle "hogs" a lane. I usually ride in the center to make sure nobody shares it with me...I never thought Eleanor's 38 inch wingspan would be so selfish.

There are quite a few drivers like that on the I-270 loop that goes around Columbus, and I often hear that these moves are very common of Midwest drivers (the East Coast drivers deserve a whole other rant). I've invented a couple names for these moves; I call it as I see them.

"Show Me the Milk Bottle!" (It's an Indy 500 poke): It's the car or motorcycle that flies past you at an ungodly speed just to get to the other side of Columbus faster than everyone else. Look man, there's no chilled milk at the end, just a lot of chunky cranberry juice on the ground if you eat it or hit something else in your path.

"The Guilty Pass": This is where a car passes you at a noticeably higher speed, gets in front of you, then hits the brakes, forcing you to do the same. It actually looks like they're setting up a basketball-style pick for someone else to move past you. Ohio Highway Patrol (OHP) has several posts along the loop where cops in cars or motorcycles camp out with radar guns. What I think is that drivers get overly paranoid about stacking the extra speed to get around cars that they want to make it look as subtle as possible.

"The Lane Sweeper": Drivers from all parts of the US are guilty of this one. It's where you find a "line of travel" and slide your vehicle across multiple lanes without signaling. The last time I checked moving laterally while going forward increases the distance of travel on the road. Not only is it stupid and dangerous, you look like a total ass. I was sideswiped by a Jaguar on the 105 West toward LAX that was attempting that exact move. It doesn't take much to, (1) signal, (2) look, (3) change lane, (4) cancel signal, (5) repeat steps 1-4 until you reach desired lane. Goodness.

Look people, it doesn't matter what you do; in Ohio the OHP can cite you on visual (not just radar gun) confirmation of speeding and/or reckless driving. There's no point in speeding just to pass one car. If you're going to pass, holy crap, just go for the gold and pass ten cars. Flaunt that impatience, save those precious seconds, and set a date with the traffic court! It's not like you'd win the fight anyway. >.<

To the random Ohio driver that passed me yesterday, my 75 MPH in a 65 MPH zone was probably too slow for you and your truck. So be it.

Being here in Ohio is a change of pace and is calm enough to where riders and drivers have to make things exciting and dangerous on the road to get an adrenaline rush. I wish more vehicle operators would appreciate the fact that Columbus has a real "rush hour" that only lasts for, literally, one hour.

This is the way I see it: I don't mind riding at a spirited, yet reasonable speed. Unless you've actually lived in CA, one wouldn't be able to comprehend the high level of skill and courage that it takes to travel, lane split, swerve, and handle a two-wheeled machine through a state that contains most of the worst freeways in the nation. In the seven years and over 130,000 miles I've ridden, I have been hit by several cars, taken out by oil slicks, and had more close calls than I can count. There's no point in hurrying home; it'll always be there...I just want to make sure I get there.

7.18.2010

Riding the motorcycle in the rain?! You'll live, seriously.

I've come across many motorcyclists who only consider themselves "fair weather riders." Loosely translated, that means they're riding only when it's sunny and warm enough that jackets and other protective gear are, for some, cumbersome options. It also means avoiding weather that isn't ideal. If you live in Central Ohio or any part of the Midwest, being a "fair weather rider" can take away nearly half of the riding season thanks to the constant movement of clouds and precipitation in this part of the United States. A bad forecast for later that day can alter a route or cancel a trip with friends. With some practice and preparation this can be changed.

Unless you live in California or any part of the Sun Belt where impending rain can be predicted days in advance, preparing to ride in the rain is vital. The ability to ride well through a downpour is another skill a rider can add to his/her toolbox of motorcycling. Not only will you become more confident on your bike, you'll develop a deeper understanding of your two-wheeled machine.

Here's a few tips to help you out.

1. Gear: Take advantage of the many innovative accessories and gear that allow you to ride in every condition and, in turn, lengthen your riding season. Rain suits, gloves, boots, etc. are available for every need and for every style of riding. Do a little research online or go to your local motorcycle store to see what the powersports industry has to offer.

2. Time: If it's the first time it's rained in your area in more than a few weeks, give the road an hour or so to wash away all the oil and other road grime that's built up during the dry time.

3. Increase your following and stopping distances. Visibility (of you) and visibility (your view of the road) are reduced in the rain. Flash the brake light several times before stopping. Look around and at your mirrors for other cars and objects in your path.

4. Eliminate sudden movements. Take more time to think about where you want the bike to go. Deliberately make line changes visible and obvious to other motorists. Gradually roll that throttle and shift cleanly. Press both front and rear brakes smoothly and gradually until you come to that stop.

5. Take it easy on the turns. This isn't the time to slam into a corner or practice maximum entry speed. Your tires have good grip on the road. When you get more comfortable with your bike in wet conditions, try increasing your lean as you take turns.

6. Always have a way out. Drivers act differently during a rainstorm so be prepared for anything. I usually try to position myself to have at least one (or if I can help it, two) ways to leave my lane in case of a sudden stop, a flying object, or debris on the road. In some cases that may be an adjacent lane, a freeway shoulder, or (in an extreme case because this is illegal everywhere but CA) splitting between traffic.

7. Watch out for painted lines and tar snakes. Those things are slippery when wet, so it's a great idea to avoid putting your foot down on top of one when you come to a stop. When rolling over them, use caution as well.

8. The only way to improve on rain riding is to actually go out and ride in the rain. Travel on familiar roads. Ride to and from work. Take the highway. Practice makes perfect! With time, rain riding is just another moist day on the bike.

7.15.2010

My Review of Sea To Summit Lightweight Dry Sack - X-Large

Originally submitted at REI

Whether you're a backpacker, adventure racer, jungle trekker, boater or pack-rafter, you need to keep your gear dry and functioning.

Great motorcycle traveler accessory!
By Christine the motorcyclist from Columbus, OH on 7/15/2010
5out of 5
Gift: No
Pros: Strong Material, Tight Closure, Easy To Carry, Good Capacity, Waterproof
Best Uses: Motorcycling, Camping
Describe Yourself: Advanced
I purchased this product as a way to pack my clothes on top of the seat of my motorcycle for a 2500 mile trip through the NE United States. I liked how easy it was to stuff everything into the bag and the roll-down style closure kept everything airtight. I was a little skeptical about the waterproof capabilities of the bag until I reached a three hour downpour in New Jersey, Delaware, and Maryland. When I pulled my clothes out at my final destination, everything was bone dry.

This XL size bag is perfect for a week's worth of clothes for a motorcyclist. I recommend this product to anyone who needs a waterproof stuff bag that's easy to strap down and carry around. As for color selection, that was the last thing on my mind. But, I did enjoy the fluorescent green. :)

7.11.2010

Last Day: New Jersey, Washington, D.C., and eventually, Columbus

The last day of this trip started as a very rainy one. The forecast of
light rain during the day turned out to be quite a torrent that didn't
let up until I left Washington, D.C. several hours later. I predicted
the worst and my rain gear saved the day again.

I traveled down I-95 through the turnpike and its many toll stops,
crossing the Delaware Memorial Bridge and a few places that I had seen
almost four years ago to the day I took my first cross-country trip in
a car.

After making it into Maryland, I stopped for lunch at Roy's Kwik
Korner in Glen Burnie (1002 Crain Hwy, S.W., Glen Burnie, MD 21061), a
small market famous for their "baseball crabcake." And yes, this thing
is the size of a baseball. It's mashed between two pieces of bread and
any toppings you can think of. I had mine plain with a Boylan's root
beer. Absolutely delicious.

I then took US-50 into Washington, D.C. It's a route that's quite
familiar to me. Once in there I snaked through and rode past the
National Archives, the Capitol building, and the National Cathedral.
It's another story in itself, but being in the presence of this city
brought quite a bit of closure to parts of my journeys on this side of
the United States.

Upon leaving, I got lost on I-495 and almost missed tagging Virginia.
I recitified that by taking I-495 the other way and it was off on the
Capitol Beltway, I-270 (no relation to the one circling Columbus), and
I-70.
Later in MD, I took a detour off of I-70 to I-68, a national scenic
byway. This highway seemed like a cross of I-70 in Colorado, I-40
approaching Flagstaff, AZ, and the hills of Iowa all mashed together.
It was a beautiful and quiet ride all the way into Wheeling, WV. In my
opinion, this is one of the prettiest highways east of Colorado.

Total miles: approximately 700

Total miles for this trip: approximately 2500.

Now it's back to work for me. I'm now back in Columbus and throwing
this online before my shift while having a bagel or two at Panera
Bread. I love this store.

Pictures and descriptions will be up later for your viewing pleasure.
Until then, I'm off to selling motorbike helmets until 5PM.

7.09.2010

Day 5: Spending the day in Freehold, NJ

After the closing ceremony at the Ride-In, I packed up and left early this morning for Freehold, NJ via Hartford, CT and various cities along I-95. I got caught in traffic NYC and was feathering clutch for quite a bit until I hit the George Washington Bridge. The bridge was free flying (the breeze from the ocean was quite nice too) and I made my way into New Jersey. About ten miles in I was caught in a downpour and had to pull over and utilize the rain gear for the first time on this trip. I got into my friend's house by 1:00PM, showered, went out for a quick snack at Jersey Freeze (120 Manalapan Avenue, Freehold, NJ‎), took a nap, and went out for a nice dinner with the family at Shiki Japanese Steakhouse (1735 State Route 35, Middletown, NJ) to celebrate her birthday. It's been four years since I've been back in Freehold, and with the truncated schedule and inclement weather, we tabled the NYC trip for another day...figured I'll be back here eventually.

After dinner, she and I went out to watch "Despicable Me" in 3-D. I highly recommend this movie to everyone, and I definitely suggest watching it in 3-D as it really takes advantage of this viewing format. The plot is great, the characters are well-developed, and the slapstick comedy will keep you giggling the entire film.

Today I will get to have someone else pump my gas for me. As much as I'm not a fan of the idea, I can't really defy state law (Oregon is the only other state that still does that). On a bright note, gas here is the cheapest it's every going to be because I'm in an oil refinery state. After that it's crossing into the nation's capital, baseball-sized crab cakes, and the journey back to Columbus.

On my return, I'll have photos up and some more retrospect of this very entertaining road trip. Until then, I will continue to keep the rubber side down. See you back in Ohio!

7.08.2010

Day 4: New England with Matt

With Matt somewhat rested from his successful (and first) Iron Butt
SaddleSore 1000, we opted out of the Ben and Jerry's Factory tour and
traveled back to Nashua, NH to see his old house and the city he
called home before moving to Columbus, OH and eventually, California.
Nashua is a quaint city with everything a person needs close to home.
He often talked about this place, but it didn't take long for me to
realize why he missed it so much.

After that quick jaunt, we headed up to York Beach, ME to visit
another place he used to visit as a kid. We stopped at the beach and
had a couple lobster rolls and a basket of freshly fried clam strips
(not the chewy Long John Silver's crap). After a stroll in the sand
and some pictures we were off again back to Stratton, VT.

Before I get the questions, I will explain what a lobster roll is.
It's a bread roll that's slathered in butter and toasted and topped
with giant chunks of freshly steamed lobster. It's absolutely
delicious, and you can only get it up in this region.

On the way back we took the same roads just a bit faster. It's been a
while since we've been able to hammer through curves like that;
Columbus region just doesn't have those kinds of roads nearby. Total
distance for this journey: approximately 320 miles.

I have the feeling that I'll be back here a few more times. This area
is too beautiful to not spend more time in. And that beach. It's not
the same as the CA coast, but for now just getting that smell again
will suffice.

According to travel plans, I will be in Freehold, NJ tomorrow for a
quick journey into NYC. I want to go see the NHL store in Times
Square. :)

7.06.2010

Day 3: Hanging around in Stratton

Today was a bit more relaxing because I stayed in the resort and avoid
riding through blistering temperatures hitting at least the mid 90s.
It started with an early jaunt to registration at the main base lodge.
After that it was a bit of taking pictures, acclimating myself to this
part of the resort, and attending an early seminar about the proper
way to take sharp curves on a motorcycle.

I had lunch with my friend that flew in from CA (the current director
of the OC Spirit Riders), chatted with ladies from the Cleveland
Rumble Pack, and headed out to the Chapter Director meeting in the
main lodge.

After a bit of a break and some BBQ I taped the opening ceremonies for
this year's Ride-In. Matt finally made it to Vermont around 9:30PM
after completing an Iron Butt SaddleSore 1000 ride that he started at
midnight.

It looks like there may be a chance of rain tomorrow but we'll see
what Mother Nature decides to bring to Vermont.

So far I'm having a blast catching up with ladies from last year and
the years past. I'm telling the story of how I ended up in Ohio after
my stint in California. Additionally, I am happy that we have three
representatives for the Buckeye State Lady Riders here. Not bad for a
chapter that's only been chartered since February.

There are so many stories and side conversations that I've had with
many of the women here. I find that being here for this event every
year is just so much fun. It's not often that you're surrounded by
women who share that same passion for motorcycles that you do. I
encourage everyone who is part of Women On Wheels(r) to at least make
the trip once; you'll be making friends and memories you'll never
forget.

7.05.2010

Day 2: [State] Tag, You're It!

Today's agenda was reaching Stratton, VT by way of Massachusetts,
Rhode Island, Maine, and New Hampshire. The route I chose turned a 70
mile ride into an almost 450 mile stretch but it was a very
interesting culture shock both as a motorcyclist and as an American.
Today's temperature hit the mid-90s and was at triple digits in some
parts. I had to pull out the evaporative cooling vest again just to
save myself from broiling.

I left Albany at about 8AM and made my way across to MA and into the
very tiny Rhode Island, stopping in Providence. The town was
completely dead due to the fact that it was July 5 and Brown
University was not in session. I filled up gas and continued on back
toward Boston.

Upon reentering MA, I noticed several things. First off, as I was
approaching the city, people's driving beacme increasingly more
erratic and sudden. Sometimes, a car would swerve across two or even
three lanes with minimal signaling. Lane changes involved squeezing
into gaps no larger than the car itself, and tailgaiting was the norm.
I was forced to perform several evaseive maneuvers myself and
intentionally kept more than a five-car distance from the car in front
of me just to allow everyone to pass. This, by far, was the worst
display of driving (if I can even call it that) that I've ever seen.
Matt often told me about their legendary vehicular skills, but it's
very clear to me that they've earned the badge, "Massholes." I was
glad to finally hit the New Hampshire border.

So I hit New Hampshire and here come the tolls. A dollar here, a few
quarters there. About 40 miles later and after waiting at a
drawbridege, I'm in Kittery, ME eating authentic and VERY fresh
lobster rolls at Herbert Brothers Seafood. Look these guys up on
Facebook. This is the place to go for legit Maine lobster. They're the
first restaurant you'd hit crossing over the bridge from Bridgeport,
NH.

After that culinary escapade, it was back through NH into Vermont
where an additional 160 miles brought me to the Stratton ski resorts.
However, riding through New Hampshire game me a bit of the creeps.
Lots of the (male) motorcyclists rode shirtless and none of them waved
to me, even the ones on sportbikes. This is the only state I've ridden
through where I've felt that I was given the cold shoulder. I don't
understand that mentality, but I tried to wave anyway.
And then here's Vermont. I wave at a biker, that person waves back.
Repeate over a couple dozen times and now I'm back with friends again
at the WOW Ride-In. This is a beautiful state to ride through with a
nice mix of twisted roads and routes alongside rivers.
And for your reference, here are the helmet laws for the states I
crossed today. Of course for me, a helmet is ALWAYS mandatory.

New York: mandatory
Massachusetts: not mandatory
New Hampshire: not mandatory
Maine: not mandatory
Vermont: mandatory

See you tomorrow!