Google+ Two-Wheeled Tourist: June 2010


Heading to Vermont: 24th Annual Women On Wheels® Ride-In

July's coming up again, and for me and a few hundred other ladies of Women On Wheels®, that means the annual migration to this year's venue for the WOW International Ride-In. For 2010, it's in Stratton, VT. This year, the distance and conditions are in my favor because moving to Columbus has put me less than 700 miles from the event, a stark contrast from the 1300 miles (direct) through the desert and into Kerrville, TX for last year's Ride-In.

Of course, in Christine fashion, those Google Maps-based numbers are somewhat meaningless because in my world there is no such thing as a "straight route" back and home, even on a crunched schedule. When on the open road with the bike, there's always a little bit of latitude to add more miles and more scenery in between. Since this is my 4th Ride-In that I will be attending, I'll summarize the routes I've traveled to get to each one.

2007 (Springfield, MO): My first Ride-In was on a whim. A fellow member from the LA Iron Angels decided to ride there and I, along with my brand new FJR1300, took off and turned it into the first (and still craziest) long distance roundabout way home. You can read about the whole adventure here.

2008 (Boyne, MI): This is the only Ride-In (and hopefully the last) that I had to arrive in by car. With crunched time and a short budget, Matt (my boyfriend at the time and freshly recruited WOW Support Member) and I flew to his mom's house in Columbus and borrowed the car to drive to Boyne for the second day of festivities. We had a fun time testing out BMW bikes and bumping into familiar faces, but I was also there on a mission: to return Frieda's the Frog's travel journal. That summary is here.

2009 (Kerrville, TX): The Ride-In to Texas marked my return to Columbus and final one as a tourist. With a lot more time (losing your teaching job can do that to you) and some free lodging on the way courtesy of the future mother-in-law, this ride was the most extended distance adventure I have done to date. This also marked my first unofficial Iron Butt with a straight shot home from Roswell, NM to LAX totaling 1,004 miles. Not as much time to write about it as I was used to, but this was the first experiment at using Facebook for blogging, as shown here.

Now with over 86,000 miles on my FJR1300 and still many more to follow, I'm on a quest to seek more paved roads to ride. So now for this summer's journey, two goals I will accomplish will be riding through every single state in the northeast United States and reaching the East Coast on two wheels. The fun part? I have exactly one week to complete everything. Here is the tentative itinerary. Yahoo.

Sunday (7/4): Ride straight to Albany, NY.
Monday (7/5): Ride from Albany, NY toward Stratton, VT by way of Providence, RI, Boston, MA, and Kittery, ME, entering VT by way of NH.
Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday (7/6-7/8): Ride-In time!
Friday (7/9): Ride to Freehold, NJ by way of New Haven, CT and travel via bus to NYC to hang out with a friend.
Saturday (7/10): Straight shot back to Columbus by way of Baltimore, MD, crossing Delaware in the process.

Total states crossed: 12. Map is below.

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Save the date!


Long-Term Review: Alaska Leather Sheepskin Buttpad

Out of all the accessories that I've fit on my FJR, my sheepskin buttpad from Alaska Leather ranks up there as one of my most favorite (and useful) add-ons to my motorcycle. I decided to give sheepskin a try last year after reading up on the benefits of sheepskin pads for Iron Butt riders. At the time I was still living in CA and dealing with a 120-mile commute through several of the worst highways in the nation. I figured that it would only add to the comfort I received from my Corbin seat day in and day out, which was already comfortable as is (that review I'll save for another day).

After 20,000 miles (and counting) with the pad on top of my seat, it's still there providing a plush place for my rear. Although there are many places to get sheepskin, I've been very satisfied with the quality and craftsmanship of the seat pads from Alaska Leather. Their "Deluxe" pad is made out of grade A sheepskin cut from a single pelt; this is nicer than the stuff you would get to cover your car seat. They're simple to install; it's a single elastic strap fastened by two quick release buckles for easy on and off. Care for the sheepskin buttpad is easy. If it gets wet in the rain, just disconnect it, shake the excess water off of it, and if possible, blot it with a towel. Every couple months or so, use a slicker brush (like the kind you use for the dog or cat) to comb the hairs and bring back its fluffy appearance. If it gets dirty, a handwash with shampoo and an air dry without heat is all you need. That's about it for care. Otherwise, it'll take the abuse, ride after ride.

For a motorcyclist that rides through all conditions, sheepskin's ability to wick off moisture and regulate temperature are essential to a comfortable ride, especially in long distances. The hairs of the sheepskin provide a space between the rider's butt and the actual seat which allows for airflow down there. In that same way, the seat never gets extremely hot when exposed to direct sunlight. Additionally, rain cannot pool as easily in the seat because the sheepskin's natural coat repels water. As an afterthought, having the pad on the bike almost all the time has protected the leather top of my seat, and those Corbins are expensive!

Simply put, this is one of the simplest remedies for the hot, uncomfortable seat. Combine that with a custom or aftermarket seat and it enhances your investment. These pads are 100% sheepskin, made in Alaska, and are available in all different sizes and natural colors to fit the shape and style of your bike. Pads start at $45 and range depending on size and shape. Get yours today!


Random Ride: One-Day Introduction to Canada

One of the perks about living in Ohio is that Canada only is a few hours away. Being a long-time hockey player, I've grown to be very picky about the quality of my goalie equipment. I've often complained over the years that the inaccessibility of (good and comprehensive) hockey stores is rampant all over the United States, which makes a lot of sense because the sport itself isn't taken as seriously as it is in the north. So, one of my goals after moving here was to visit the Don Simmons store in Fort Erie, Ontario, Canada, a little custom goalie equipment shop just over the border. I had that opportunity yesterday as part of a one-day escapade to our neighbor to the north. Matt planned out this ride after realizing that he had a complete day off, a rarity for him nowadays because he works two jobs.

So Matt and I decided to take a day ride to visit Canada. We set out yesterday at 6AM and rode a direct route via I-71 and I-90, crossing Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York. With only two stops for gas and quick snacks we made it to the US/Canada border via Buffalo, NY right before noon. Crossing the border took less than five minutes with a passport check. Note to all you riders out there: only one motorcycle at a time at the customs and toll gates.

Our first stop was the Don Simmons Store in Fort Erie. After staring and drooling at their website for so many years, I had the chance to go and actually try on their products. (I had purchased a set of Simmons 992 goalie pads about five years ago and have been a fan ever since.) Rick at the store was wonderful and took the time to help me out. I spent almost three hours playing around and testing the equipment for the proper combination of gear I'd like to move to when I can afford the upgrade. I did get out of there with a new goalie pelvic protector; a strange but very much sought after souvenir for me.

For a late lunch, we rode to Niagara Falls and watched the falls from the cruising comfort of our bikes. We then parked the bikes and had a buffet meal at the Casino Niagara before hitting the video poker for a few minutes. Thanks to a lucky four-of-a-kind, I turned $5 into $20 and we got back onto the bikes to ride west toward Michigan. Surprisingly, this was the first casino where the entire establishment was completely non-smoking (smoking gamers had their own area blocked off by doors). I guess you can pull that off here, because that certainly wouldn't fly in Las Vegas.

Instead of going back the way we came, we traveled around Lake Erie by riding westward on the 402 toward the Michigan side of the border, gassing up at Canadian Tire and winning $2 on a lotto scratcher in Brantford (home of Wayne Gretzky). We passed some other famous cities and sites that were also accessible via 402 such as Straftord (home of the Stratford Shakespeare Festival), Simcoe (home of former Sharks defenseman Rob Blake), and a nudist beach. We didn't stop again until we were about ten miles from the end of 402, filling up again and switching over to rain gear after a light sprinkle hinted at the heavier rain up ahead.

The northern bridge back to the US (entering into Michigan) wasn't as smooth. The Memorial Day weekend traffic, combined with a light rain, turned the wait into an uncomfortable stop-and-go for almost two hours. We finally reentered the country a little past 11PM and ended up sleeping for a few hours in a hotel south of Detroit before waking up at 6AM to ride the last two and a half hours back home via I-94, I-75, and US-23. If it wasn't for the last border crossing we would've been home by about 11PM that evening. Note to self... when planning an Iron Butt run, do not involve crossing into other countries for the possibility of delays.

If you're planning to take this route, expect to pay a few tolls. It's approximately $6.00 total per person for entry and exit at the border and $3.00 the end of the New York turnpike en route to the border.

This was definitely a scenic, long distance quick run. I'd recommend trying this one on a non-holiday weekend to avoid the border traffic. Otherwise, it's beautiful during this time of the year. The weather ranged from 70°-90°F all day and with the exception of the rain at the end, it was quite pleasant.

Route is below. Approximately 780 miles. Very doable in a day but it'll keep you on your bike for most of it...if you're up to the challenge.

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