Google+ Two-Wheeled Tourist: 2011


Dirty motorcycles have character. Make yours filthy. (And Happy New Year, too.)

You'll see them at every powersports convention: super clean and shiny bikes with not a single scratch, ding, dent, or imperfection, out for display for the world to ooh and aah over. The shine attracts a crowd faster than the mini taco sample table at a Costco. And yet, despite the beauty of new paint and accent lines, the reflective properties of layers of wax and detail spray, they're still a blank canvas with no expression.

When I see the newness of these polished creations, the first question that comes to my mind is, "How much time did that person waste to make those rims shine like the top of the Chrysler building?"

Now I don't imply that I'm not a clean person. I do bathe frequently and wash my hands after using the bathroom and before preparing food. However, there comes a revelation to quite a number of motorcycle riders that there's really no point to keeping a bike clean when you're using it every single day. When I put on the gear and jump on my machine, I've just put on my play clothes. And when you play outside, you're bound to come back with a few specks of dirt. Spend enough time outside and there's usually no energy left to hose off the machine and give it a good bath...or any motivation to do so.

A rider attached to a motorcycle is the start of an exciting story of exploits both near and far. As I understand that there is a sense of pride in having a clean machine to jump on, there is also an overwhelming allure to leaving the comforts of the garage and venturing out into the world and all its obstacles both on the road and with the weather.

So how many stories can your motorcycle tell? I think about that first glowing splotch on my windshield when I struck a firefly entering Minnesota. When I see the gash on the right hardcase I think about the green Jaguar that decided that it needed part of my lane on the 105 West freeway near Hawthorne, CA. There are stickers from places such as Chicago, Wyoming, Montana, South Dakota, and Ontario, Canada that line my bike like an unofficial passport. There's that scratch on the front fender from a bird plinking off of it en route to Sandusky, OH. The list goes on and on. For me, there is an intangible value of a bike that goes beyond its engine and its accessories - it is the unspoken worth of where the bike has been and where it will go in its lifetime.

As 2011 comes to a close today, I take a couple steps back and admire the stickers, scratches, tarnished rims, carcasses of insects that line the front of my beloved FJR1300AWC, and the over 121,000 miles that we have ventured together in the last 4.5 years. As I write this, she sits out in the rain in a futile attempt to make itself more presentable before I take it puddle hopping down a street. Again.

If I were to offer a suggestion to start the new year, it would be to keep up the good work with your filthy two-wheeled beast. Pile the miles. Explore the world. Step outside of your comfort zone. Take your chances and discover what you and your bike can do together.

To all my readers, best wishes and great rides for 2012 and beyond. May your motorcycle proudly display every type of road (and off-road) grime imaginable and speak of your crazy adventures through them.


Is heated gear absolutely necessary? Your call.

I thought about revisiting the topic of heated motorcycle gear after my umpteenth ride to work today in wet sub-40°F conditions. My commute to work and back is about 52 miles round-trip, or the distance one-way from Los Angeles to Mission Viejo on a good day. As much as I would like to be cruising that distance in the warmth of the West Coast where it's 75°F and sunny on the beach on Christmas Day, I'm not in luck at the moment. To compensate for the riding "season" that exists in the Midwest, I ride every opportunity that is given to me and not wait for the next perfect day to come around (those rarely happen here, by the way).

I have a single basic rule about riding conditions: the bike is parked when conditions get icy or snow sticks to the road. How I determine this is has been fodder for another blog post, but other than that issue, cold conditions are not a problem during a ride as long as they are properly managed.

The story of my motorcycle life after October in Central Ohio. Good grief.
I've been asked about different types of remedies for those days when it's a bit nippy out there but you want to get out and ride. Regardless of whatever method you use to keep warm on the motorcycle, there are a few basic rules to follow:
1. Cover all holes where air can enter while the bike is moving.
2. Layer appropriately to allow for adjustment to colder/warmer temps.
3. Stay dry. Moisture will reduce the warming effects of your gear.

What's more important? Warm hands or a warm core?
The circulatory system is the human body's natural source for warmth. In simpler terms, it's like a miniature pipe system that spreads warm blood throughout the body. Alternatively, if your blood is cold, then you will feel cold. This is why scarves cover the neck, the location of the major carotid arteries, in the winter while water-soaked bandannas wrapped in the same area aids in the cooling process in the summer.

With that being said, a heated vest/jacket liner helps maintain warmth in the chest area (the center of blood circulation) keeping it at a more comfortable temperature. In turn, the warmth from the center will radiate to the rest of the body. The hands (and feet) are merely end points of the circulatory system. Although having heated gloves will help with localized warmth, a warm core will benefit the entire body and greatly reduce discomfort as a whole. If given the choice between a heated vest/jacket liner or a pair of heated gloves, the former will be more beneficial during extended trips.

Many long distance riders (including myself) consider the heated vest/jacket liner an integral tool in any journey, regardless of time of year. When riding a motorcycle cross-country one should assume a 30-60°F fluctuation in temperature over several thousand miles. Additionally, the windchill factor can turn what is comfortable at standing temperature unbearable at prolonged exposure at highway speeds. For example, a cool 70°F night travelling at 75 MPH feels like 58°F. Does that extra layer sound good right about now? (Sound a bit harsh? Click here for a windchill calculator.)

What is my tolerance for "cold" and do I want to ride in it?
As I've written (and complained about) in previous blog entries, my definition a "fair weather" rider is a person that willfully chooses to depend on numbers and the weatherman to decide when to enjoy their motorcycle ride. In most normal situations, a simple change of the gloves, jacket, or adding an additional layer is enough to compensate for a 10-20°F drop in temperature. Don't know how you'll react in cold? You won't know until you actually try it. For alternatives outside of electric gear, here's a previous blog post on the subject.

How much is motorcycle heated gear?
Good quality heated gear and all its components can be a bit pricey, with a basic jacket/glove setup starting at a couple hundred dollars. You can even get heated pants, socks, and soles too! Several known makers of heated clothing are Gerbing's, FirstGear, and Aerostitch.

Am I the type of rider that can benefit from heated gear?
Like any accessory that's available on the market, heated motorcycle gear isn't for everyone. If your commute is short (I define that as less than 10-15 miles in one direction) and it's something you'll do occasionally, proper layering and windproof materials will get you there without too much trouble. With time and understanding of your needs during a ride, heated gear may become a future consideration. The extra warmth will benefit a rider at any distance, but your decision to invest in it is all up to you.


How to suck at parenting. Effing badly.

In the last few years, society has been introduced to the many uses of the word "FAIL." Many examples of this from the point of view of child-rearing have made it to websites such as and spread among e-mail to those with a sense of humor. As funny as many of those are, demeaning a child and then continuing to belittle them into their adult years is a common practice many know all too well. I myself am a survivor of those issues, and like anyone that's lived through traumatic experiences, they've left their scars.

Bad parenting extends far beyond outright lack of thought that makes Internet fodder for discussion. In many cases, the little negative things, what is said and done with repetition throughout a lifetime, can make an impact on a child long into their adult years. Although some of these thoughts may be trivial to some, leaving youth like me with way too much time and advanced critical thinking skills for their age to fester in these issues for years is just plain wrong. So, in lieu of venting to a therapist, here's a few things I've learned as the child of emotionally abusive parents.


You know, I figured myself out MUCH earlier than that...

While I was in college and training to become a high school language arts teacher, I was paired up with a master teacher who specialized in a niche of education that I was going go deal with being in metropolitan Los Angeles: English language-learners. This teacher, unfortunately, was frustrated with my departure from traditional direct teaching and drills and my emphasis on real-world relevancy in lessons. As I found this to work well with the students I was assigned to, she found it to be a time waster and ineffective and made sure I knew about it. I think it was because the kids were lively and practicing their speech actively (It was a language course, wasn't it?). After a few weeks, it became obvious that she wanted me out.


Sound solutions for long-distance motorcycle trips.

There comes a point in a motorcyclist's riding when he/she needs to drone out the noise of the road and add music to the journey. Regardless of where the music source is coming from (MP3 player, iPod, GPS with audio, etc.), there are many solutions for blasting the tunes while you're rolling down the highway on your bike.

1. In-helmet speakers. These come in a thin wafer shape and sit inside of a helmet's ear ports. Since they do not directly go into the ear, they are acceptable under most traffic laws. Here's an example from Aerostitch. Online stores such as also provide options for listening inside your helmet. Related products include in-helmet communication devices with integrated FM radios, Bluetooth, and auxiliary audio inputs such as the Scala Rider G4 by Cardo.

2. Ear buds. These provide excellent sound isolation and in some cases double as earplugs. However, your ability to hear ambient sounds can be reduced. Check your local/state laws permitting the use of in-ear audio devices while riding. If using these, I recommend the soft earbud-style that include interchangeable silicone cups of various sizes, such as SkullCandy or JVC Riptydz. An even advanced option is custom-made earplugs with integrated earphones such as those from EarFuze or Hearing Dynamics. I don't recommend the stock earphones that come with iPods; they just fall out!

3. Bike mounted speakers. Some examples start with the simple, handlebar mounted Kuryakyn Sounds of Chrome speakers to the very involved Quadzilla fairings by Hoppe Industries made for both American and metric cruisers. This is one of the more pricey options for playing audio on a motorcycle, especially for us riders that don't own a two-wheeled car.

Regardless of which listening method you choose, please use common sense when using audio devices on the road and stay aware of your surroundings. Happy riding!


Screw the calendar, I'm riding anyway!

For the last few weeks, I've seen the amount of motorcyclists on the road turn from a huge presence on the road to dwindling down to a couple machines very far and in between. There are times where I find myself to be the only motorcycle on I-270 on the way to work on cool mornings. Nothing has changed much; the days are getting shorter and temperatures have dropped anywhere between 10-20 degrees on average but are well above frost warning levels. For me and the other half, that just means pulling out the long-sleeved shirts, flipping the switch on the heated gear, and throwing on the insulated, waterproof riding boots. For everyone else it seems, riding "season" is over. And traditionally in Ohio, it ends the weekend before Labor Day regardless of how nice the weather is. Last year, that translated to thousands of riders willingly losing an extra month of summer-like weather because, let's face it, you can't ride past just doesn't look right.

Are you kidding me? This is the time of year that we can be thankful for not getting scorched in 90 degree heat waves! The trees are turning all sorts of colors which is a sight to see in this part of the nation. And for those who ride year-round, it does provide a refreshing feeling that the "posers" are all gone for the fall/winter and won't show up until May. (You mean I won't encounter someone at the gas station who thinks I'm a whimp/astronaut/sissy/overdressed/Santa because I'm wearing ATGATT? Sweet!)

In a place where riding a motorcycle is more of a novelty than a form of transportation, I'll still be out there on my two-wheeled car until ice glazes the road and I can play shimmy hockey in my parking lot. Yes, even I have to draw a line somewhere, there's just no reason to do it at the moment.


Food Review: Piada Italian Street Food (Gahanna, OH)

Yesterday's dinner was a trip to a very unique spin on Italian food.

We visited the Piada Italian Street Food restaurant on Morse Road in Gahanna to try out their signature Piada. A piada is basically a grilled item rolled into a flatbread along with a sauce, angel hair pasta (optional), and a whole variety of veggies and toppings. For my grilled item, I went for calamari. Chicken, steak, and salmon are some of the options as well. Matt took the option of having a pasta bowl made in the same fashion. For those looking for leafy greens, building a chopped salad with those ingredients is available as well.

Loosely, this is the Italian answer to Chipotle Mexican Grill with a lot fresher vegetable options. I enjoyed the fact that I had the option of fresh artichoke and mushrooms to throw into my meal. With very minimal pasta, the piada was very filling and probably would've been better without the additional carb filler. For refreshments, Piada features several flavors of Italian soda to break the norm of traditional Coke products.

Here's my calamari piada. The insides are lot more interesting.
Since this was the first time I've eaten here, I didn't get to try some of the additional sides and soups that Piada offers. I think I'll give the lobster bisque or the spinach and artichoke dip a shot on my next visit.

If you're looking for something that's unique and exclusive (so far) to the Columbus, OH area, I would suggest this establishment. At lunchtime this place is notorious for being super busy, but grabbing dinner was very easy for a Tuesday night. In fact, Matt and I were the only two sitting in the actual seating area. But if you're really in a hurry, they do take phone and online orders too.

At the time of this blog post's publication, Piada has three locations currently open with two slated to open by mid-2012. For more information, visit their website at
Piada Italian Street Food on Urbanspoon


Has it really been a year already? Yup.

Around this time last year, Matt and I were riding two-up on my FJR1300 en route to Chicago, IL on US-30. It was a bit different than originally planned; we were on one bike instead of two, our departure delayed several hours thanks to a careless hit-and-run taxi driver that turned Matt's BMW K1200RS into a pile of scrap. Despite that, we managed to make it to the Windy City (the 'burbs of Itasca to be exact) with a nail in the rear tire and a conked out GPS system that left us direction and music-less for half the trip. However, we survived that part of the journey, tied the knot in Downtown Chicago, and partied it like "real" adults at Dave and Busters with several of our closest friends.

For the normal couple, the accident alone would've just killed the entire event, but it just added to the memories and the adventures for us. Who said we were normal?

Being the strange couple we are, we'll be celebrating our first anniversary this week in Toronto, Canada. This time around, we'll have two intact motorcycles and time to go sightseeing in the city where we were originally going to hold our marriage ceremony in 2010. And in familiar, traveling blogger style, you might see a photo or two on my Twitter page (@2wheeledtourist).

And for all you nostalgic people out there, visit our wedding blog @ to relive "that one thing in Chicago."


Fun and functional apps for the phone and office...

Thanks to my current job, I'm in front of my computer for hours during a normal work day and on my Android smartphone when I'm in the service bay taking photos of bikes or searching for information online for the techs. In that time, I've been introduced to quite a few useful (and FREE) online services for both my phone and the PC that have increased (or if I'm at home, decreased) my productivity. Here are a few that some of my friends have directed me to that have become commonplace on all my machines.

Note: I own an Android so I'm not sure if some of these apps are available for iPhone.


Food Review: Yogi's Hoagies (Westerville, OH)

Last Wednesday I decided to add some local fare to my lunch and stopped by Yogi's Hoagies on the way to Downtown Westerville.

Yogi's shows some Buckeye pride before the 9/3/11 football game against the University of Akron Zips. 
This sandwich shop is known for their fully customizable, made-to-order subs and French bread pizzas. Yogi's also offers catering options in the form of large party subs of enormous proportions which are great for tailgates and parties.

Local store, local flare, local flavor.
For today's lunch, Matt and I tried the hot Philly sub and meatball sub, respectively. Both subs were quite tasty and flavorful. I was very impressed by the freshness of their sandwich bread, meats and toppings. The meatballs were seasoned quite well and tasted homemade. We also tried the garlic and cheese bread and found that to be quite delicious. To top it off, they served freshly-brewed sweet (and unsweetened) iced tea! The price was quite reasonable too; a standard 8" sub ranges from $4-7 depending on its ingredients. We were able to feed ourselves a very hearty lunch for two for less than $15.

Freshly toasted meatball with mushrooms. I can still smell that fresh sauce.
Yogi's Hoagies is a female-owned, private sandwich shop that has been in operation for over 40 years. The current owner, Sue Shields, has been there for 18 of those years. Thanks to support from the local community, it has managed to beat the odds and continue to operate, despite the competition of nearby, mainstream food establishments and fast food restaurants.

As a former small-business owner in California, I can understand the challenges of maintaining a business in the midst of heavy competition. It's one of the reasons that I take a little extra time to give local business owners an extra shout-out. If you're in the Westerville area, I encourage you to stop on by and try a sub. Or at least check out Sue's vast collection of random hanging clocks and houseplants.

Yogi's Hoagies is located at 475 South State Street, Westerville, OH 43081. You can also visit their website at

Yogi's Hoagies on Urbanspoon


Product Review: Blinc M2 Bluetooth Helmet Headset

I had the chance to take the Blinc M2 Bluetooth helmet headset for a test drive for the last week or so in hopes that I would potentially add it as an item at the motorcycle store.

Contents of a full Blinc M2 Headset package.
Here's my independent review:
The Blinc M2 and its counterpart, the Blinc M1 are standalone Bluetooth helmet headsets that are designed to universally fit all types of full and open-face motorcycle helmets through a combination of clip installation or adhesive plate and in-helmet speakers with a wind-resistant microphone. The only difference between the M1 and M2 is that the latter includes an integrated auto-seek FM radio. Blinc also has two additional headsets, the Blinc 1 and Blinc 3 that are exclusively integrated into several models of Torc helmets.


Food Review: Greek Express (Columbus, OH - Polaris)

It's been a bit of time since I've done a review on a fast food Greek restaurant so I decided to stop by this new establishment a few days ago, Greek Express, in the Polaris Shopping Center area across from Kroger. This is one of two locations run by the same company, the other down OH-750 in nearby Lewis Center.

For dinner, I tried their dinner plate of gyros and rice and a serving of fried calamari for an appetizer. The servings were very generous, in fact a little bigger than I wanted for dinner that evening, but I'm not the one to complain about extra food. I was even more surprised by the taste of the actual food. The gyro meat was quite dry and the rice was seasoned very unevenly and over-buttered and salted in multiple areas. The pita bread was the only real good-tasting object on my plate, and even that could have been a bit less rubbery. As for the calamari, it was obvious that it was generic, with a very bland crispy outside and a tasteless squid inside that screamed for sauce. I think that explains why I received multiple packages of the "tzatziki" sauce (I put it in quotations because I really didn't know what the heck that stuff was supposed to taste like).

Looks tantalizing, doesn't it? Couldn't say much about ended at looks.
It's very rare that I'll severely criticize a food establishment, but this one just deserved it. But for $10 or less you can at least fill your stomach so you won't feel as hungry.

And a suggestion for independent food establishments that plan to carry Greek-style food: don't show off the fact that you get your supply of food products from a major distributor. If you ever see the "Kronos" brand emblazoned on anything at a fast food Greek restaurant in the form of signs, posters, and tray liners, expect everything to taste like this. Seriously. Check out That's like saying gourmet food by Sygma and not by the expertise of your high-caliber chefs. Good grief.

If you want to try your luck on "Greek" food, Greek Express is located at 8685 Sancus Boulevard, Columbus, OH 43240. After a quick chat with a relative of one of the employees after dinner in the parking lot (he was admiring by motorcycle), he did admit to me that the chicken was ten times better than the gyros. Some patronage right there.

On a bright note, you won't have to travel too far down Sancus to get to Greek food that doesn't suck. I suggest visiting Crazzy Greek on Sancus/Lazelle to get that strange aftertaste out of your mouth.

Greek Express on Urbanspoon


Hockey Haikus for the Frustrated Goalie

And here's something for the rainy evening.

I was going through some old blog archives from several years ago and had to bring these amusing hockey-related haikus I wrote back to the surface. I produced these in the midst of a 26-game losing streak (I'm not making up that number, by the way) while playing on three teams in three separate leagues. Since I couldn't really control what was happening on the ice, I figured I'd vent a little in classic 5-7-5 syllable poetry. That's my English degree at work, people. Huzzah.


Josh Groban's Straight to You Tour @ Schottenstein Center (August 5, 2011)

And Josh Groban has proven once again why he's one of the top performers of our generation...

When I found out in March that Josh Groban was coming to Columbus for the first time in a several years, I had to make sure that I could secure tickets for his show. My chances for awesome tickets were very high because Josh Groban Fan Club members received first dibs on tickets one day before the general public for major tours. So after debating between seeing him at the new CONSOL Energy Center arena in Pittsburgh or the smaller and more intimate Schottenstein Center at Ohio State, I decided on the latter because of ticket price and the fact that I was getting floor seats. So just on a whim, I decided on smack dab in the middle, section F5.

I brought one of my good friends with me to the show and was quite impressed with the location of our seats in relation to the main stage. She had never seen Josh perform live before so this was pretty exciting for her as well. However, we both realized that our seats were even more special than we had originally thought...


Food Review: Aloha Hawaiian BBQ and Asian Bistro (Grandview, OH)

One of my biggest pet peeves about living here in the Buckeye State is the lack of food chains that don't involve either pizza, burgers, or subs. Being a Californian, I was spoiled by the popular, non-burger dependent food chains out there (Daphne's Greek Cafe, and L&L's Hawaiian BBQ to name a couple) that would occasionally be lunch or dinner after a hectic day of work.

After nearly two years in Columbus (and two months of eagerly passing by the soon-to-open location), a void in my food selection has finally been filled. Hawaiian BBQ is finally here in the community of Grandview with Aloha Hawaiian BBQ and Asian Bistro!

Yep, food choices just got a lot less lame out here.
Unlike the standard Hawaiian BBQ places that I've eaten at on the West Coast, this one has also introduced some popular Asian dishes in the mix including Pad Thai, tempura udon soup, and several Chinese entrees. In fact, Matt and I ordered a small side of crab rangoons to start things off, which disappeared before I could pull out the camera.

So some people would ask, "What's so special about Hawaiian BBQ?" It's all about the taste and the simplicity. Hawaiian BBQ bases itself off the standard plate lunch. It's basically your choice of meat, a scoop of rice, and Hawaiian macaroni salad which tastes far different from your standard supermarket choices. It's simple, it's cheap, and it's filling.

For my main course, I ordered a chicken combo consisting of BBQ chicken and chicken katsu (lightly fried cutlet). Sides were the traditional mac salad and scoop of rice. One bite into the meal and I was taken right back to the South Bay again. Both grilled and fried meats were done well and very juicy. The mac salad still had its mellow and slightly sweet flavoring, and the rice was cooked just right, as I like to say "exactly to spec."

Definitely worth the wait and the 20-minute drive.
I am excited to see a small, culinary piece of home here in Columbus. Thanks to the existence of this store, I no longer have to ride 600 miles east to New York City for L&L's or 2100 miles west to Las Vegas, NV for another restaurant of the same genre. Yes, that's how uncommon a restaurant like this is. So for all you fellow California ex-patriates out there, your fix for chicken katsu, spam musubi, and loco moco has been satisfied. We all can't go home, but we can bring a little of it back here.

Aloha Hawaiian BBQ is family owned and located at 974 W 5th Ave., Columbus, OH 43212. Open 7 days a week. If you've never tried this style of food, bring some friends, have a nice lunch, and enjoy the relaxed atmosphere!

  Aloha Hawaiian BBQ & Asian Bistro on Urbanspoon


Test Ride Review: 2011 Kawasaki Ninja 1000

I had the chance to test ride the 2011 Kawasaki Ninja 1000 as part of the festivities of AMA Vintage Days at Mid-Ohio last Sunday. I had wanted to ride this bike mainly because I had owned its last predecessor released in the United States, the 2008 Kawasaki Z1000, for a time and was curious with this addition to the Kawi family. (The 2009-2010 Z1000 was identical to the 2008 but only released in Europe due to low sales in the U.S.)

For the 2011 lineup, Kawasaki has the option of both the Z1000 and the Ninja 1000, two bikes with the same engine but with two different personalities.

For less flashiness, the Ninja 1000 is also available in a black/black color scheme.
I often refer to the Ninja 1000 as "the Z1000 with clothes." It is, literally, a Z1000 with a more touring-inspired fairing that would be ideal for the daily commute or the long haul. There are even factory options for hard bags if you're really travelling somewhere!

The digital speedometer/analog tachometer combo is a very similar style to the 2008 Z1000 and includes a double trip odometer and fuel gauge. I would've liked to see addition of the gear shift indicator that's included on both the Kawasaki ZX-6 and ZX-10 sportbikes.
We set out on a series of local twisty roads in the Mansfield area to test the bike's acceleration, braking, and cornering. My rear suspension was set up for someone who was lighter, so I found myself drifting into turns a little more than I wanted to. I did, however, like grippiness and response of the OEM tires on this bike, Bridgestone Battlax BT016R Hypersports, and enjoyed flicking the bike quite aggressively through a few switchbacks and tight curves. In terms of power, I didn't notice too much of a difference between this bike and my previous 2008 Z1000, whose engine was about 50cc smaller with a fewer horses. But unlike the Z1000, I found this Ninja 1000's throttle much smoother and much more crisp response than its predecessor.

The 2011 Z1000/Ninja 1000 feature another take of the unusual stock exhaust, a distinct, yet love-or-hate feature of the Z1000 series since 2003.
- very standard, upright naked bike ergonomics
- adjustable windshield
- lightweight feeling (for a liter sportbike) and easy to flick around
- smooth throttle with very little abruptness
- options for hard luggage

- suspension is soft in the front, definitely needs stiffer springs
- wish the stock adjustable windshield was larger, but that can be fixed with an aftermarket solution
- $10,999 MSRP price tag may have some people looking at fully-faired sport-touring bikes instead

In conclusion, Kawaski has made a great bike that combines the zip and nimbleness of the Z1000 and the versatility of a sport tourer in a very functional package. I would recommend this bike for those weekend long-distance trips where the destination brings on the twisty roads or as an everyday commuter that still possesses an excitement factor.

Even with the new Z1000 and the Ninja 1000 out on the market, I still consider the '07-'08 Z1000 a formidable standard bike that will do just as much as the 2011 model. You can't go wrong with any of these bikes, and with a little suspension tweaking and some luggage, you'll be able to go rip down any paved road.

Special thanks to Sue Slate from the Women's Motorcyclist Foundation for the opportunity to jump on a Ninja 1000 last week!


Fuzzy! Best. Rat. Ever. (2008-2011)

Fuzzy retired to the great messy kitchen in the sky at 11:45PM last night at the approximate age of three years. He fell asleep on my lap peacefully in a warm blanket. We're going to miss the little bugger, but he put up a heck of a fight against a very brief illness. Of course he didn't leave without overhearing me tell a friend his life story in an hour. Always wanting to look cute and be the center of attention until the very end...

He leaves behind a lifetime of memories and lots of food particles and stolen pieces of paper under the bed. He spent many a night sleeping underneath bedsheets and frequently next to our feet. He probably ran farther with pieces of food in his mouth bigger than his head than any other rat that I've known, granting he had the liberty of the hallway whenever we were home.

When we lived in CA, Fuzzy was notorious for using Post-It Notes, pens, and five $20 bills as bedding in his igloo. He also found shelter in my used helmets and was often seen sticking his head out of them whenever he smelled freshly cooked pasta in the kitchen. A food conniseur, he has enjoyed tasty samplings of meat, poultry, fish, bread, pesto pasta, and the giant strawberry or piece of cookie for desert. He loved root beer and would often sample some whenever we popped a bottle open. He also had this thing for Thin Mints and gum that I'll never understand.

Fuzzy gets his own root beer. Sort of.
What a tough act to follow. Not too shabby for a rejected, up-for-adoption, one-eyed hairless rat from a PetSmart in Tustin, CA.

To see some of his shenanigans from some of his better days, visit

To see him steal stuff off my old video-editing desk in CA, visit

And, just to watch nibble "cheese," visit

Looks like he won't have to beg for his favorite strawberry-favorite yogurt drops; he's got them by the bucket wherever he is now. :)

Fuzzy chills out, like usual...wrinkles and all.


Diana's Final Memorial in the CA Redwoods (7/9/11)

After hanging out with friends at the WOW Ride-In in San Jose, I spent an extra couple days in CA to attend the memorial service of Diana Thornton, one of my Columbus riders that passed away to cancer last August. Coincidentally, she lived in the San Jose area for 15 years while she worked for in the Bay Area and then transferred to Columbus, OH where I then met her. She was a long-time Women On Wheels® member that helped start both the LA Iron Angels and the Buckeye State Lady Riders, two chapters that  I've served as a director. She will be missed dearly, and I was very honored to be part of her final send-off in the California redwoods.


ATV Safety Class @ Hollister Hills SVRA (Hollister, CA)

Sometimes to have a lot of fun, you gotta get a little dirty!

As part of the festivities of the Women On Wheels® 25th International Ride-In taking place in San Jose, CA last week, I had the opportunity with five other WOW members to take the ATV Safety Class ran by the California State Parks Off-Highway Motor Vehicle Recreation Division. It was held at the Hollister Hills SVRA (State Vehicular Recreational Area). Learning curriculum and material provided was from the ATV Safety Institute.


Food Review: Arizmendi Bakery and Pizzeria (Emeryville, CA)

Since my trips back to CA appear to be very far and few in between, I usually make a list of food places that I "must" visit before returning back to that one other state I live in now. I think I've just added another place to my list, that is, when I end up back in Northern California again.

For lunch, my old high school friend took me to Arizmendi Bakery and Pizzeria in Emeryville to try one of their unique artisan pizzas. Every day of the month, a different pizza is made with unique ingredients, and the list is usually revealed a week at a time on their website. For today (Sunday), it was topped with sweet potatoes, Pasilla peppers, feta, and lime oil. I was curious about this combination, especially with the sweet potatoes, but I was extremely astonished by the amount of flavor that this pizza had to offer.


Taking Eleanor home, the Northern Route.

I left from Elko, NV yesterday at 6AM and was at the California border by 11AM. It felt wonderful to cross back into the Golden State again, and reentry via I-80 offered some of the most scenic (and twisty) roads that, if you took your eyes off course you could end up in a barrier. That was the kind of intensity of riding that I had missed being in Ohio for so long, where everything around me within a reasonable distance is a straight line or a meandering curve. In CA, even the freeways are interesting!

Iron Butt BunBurner 1500/SaddleSore 2000 Report

"To be insane, you must have discipline." - Hudson Leick

This report has been completed in between my two stays in Elko, NV and Oakland, CA after an Iron Butt adventure that involved four time zones, 45 hours of travel, and nearly 3000 miles on the motorcycle. Here's a little recap of my travels.

Eleanor's all geared up and ready to ride!
Departure from Columbus: 12:30AM EST, 6/30
Final Stop for BB1500: Rawlins, WY, 9:30AM MST, 7/1
Final Stop for SS2000: Elko, NV, 7:30PM PST, 7/1

The route was very basic: I-70 to I-80 via I-29 from Columbus, OH to Green River, WY. According to Google Maps, the total came to 1520 miles, enough for the BunBurner ride (1500 miles in 36 hours). I originally planned for this route to be a shot for the more extreme BunBurner Gold (1500 miles in 24 hours), but due to severe closures on I-29 in Iowa due to flooding in that part of the state that I didn't know about in advance, my connection from I-70 was delayed so badly mid-day that I was trapped in the state for nearly two hours, eliminating the possibility for Gold. However, the extra 200 miles I covered trying to find an alternate route brought my final destination for the BunBurner a lot closer.

And I ride, and I ride, and I ride...

So after a broiling run through most of 100+ degree Nebraska and 285 miles to go on the BunBurner 1500 attempt, I had to call it a day after getting caught in the middle of a severe storm that had winds nearing 50MPH and throwing me around on Eleanor near to Big Springs, NE. The tradeoff? A nice dinner with steak and second round with a regional favorite, Rocky Mountain Oysters.

Yup, it's genuine fried bull junk. If you've seen some of the other stuff I've eaten, this would probably be quite benign.
By the morning it cleared beautifully and it was easy to get to WY to finish off the final leg. I was glad that I waited for that sunrise because that portion of I-80 was some of the most scenic portions of interstate I've ever ridden. I had missed the pretty part of I-80 in Wyoming when Matt and I moved to Ohio in 2009 because we connected from I-25 from Fort Collins, CO instead of from Reno, NV.

Crossing the WY border during the final stretch of the BB1500. Yahoo.
After completing those final 285 miles for the first certification, I had over 12 hours to ride 500 miles to earn the SaddleSore 2000. That was completed quite casually with a stop for ice cream and a rest stop in Utah. I ended up in Elko, NV with a total of 2050 miles and three hours to spare.

This is gorgeous, and it was only the rest stop!
A member of the local wildlife. It saw my camera and took a stand.
Some additional notes...
My two biggest challenges were boredom during the long stretches of road and the heat wave I experienced in Nebraska. While I rode through the night, there wasn't much to see, so staying alert really involved a lot of good music and comedy routine selections. The same thing applied during the day; lots of songs and switching between channels on my XM radio. Also, with hours and hours on the saddle, I had to use several methods of keeping myself from getting too sore. Some methods included standing on the pegs while moving a crawl in work zones, engaging my BrakeAway cruise control mechanism, dangling the legs, and perching my feet onto the passenger pegs. As for the heat, my evaporative cooling vest saved the day, but the dry heat (100-105 degrees with crosswinds) made the last stretch of road a bit fatiguing. Keeping my CamelBak filled with ice water was a lifesaver as well.

I was lucky that the weather on the second day was relatively mild. Riding through the last portion of Nebraska into Wyoming was actually quite chilly with temps in the 50s and a crosswind. I had to use my Gerbings heated jacket liner and gloves for the first three hours of travel until it warmed up enough to just ride with my thicker Aerostitch Roadcrafter jacket. By midday I was back with the mesh jacket and didn't even need the cooling vest at all.

Contrary to popular belief, I did NOT drink any coffee or have any energy drinks during this entire journey. I had long days but I was able to sleep 6-7 hours a night which was sufficient and just enough to keep me from waking up groggy. The big key was keeping hydrated with lots of water and stopping at regular intervals.

The ability to ride through those miles comes with time. If you're thinking of doing these kinds of rides, work up to them and practice, practice, practice!

I think my vacation can start now...!


An actor finally gets long-awaited recognition from the public...

I was musing about this after reading several articles published lately about world-renowned Canadian actor, Christopher Plummer who is currently acting in several films and just completed a 30-show engagement in Toronto two months ago. One notable article is NPR's "Christopher Plummer: After 81 Years, A 'Beginner'."

Here's the amazing part: He's still keeping up a full traveling and acting schedule despite the fact that he's 81 years old!

I've been a long-time Christopher Plummer fan for nearly 15 years, and like almost every young person in this generation, it was his role as Captain von Trapp in "The Sound of Music" that first won me over. And as I grew up and began to watch many more of his other films he's performed in and animated movies that he's voiced-over I realized very quickly that his versatility as both a film actor and a stage performer was unmatched. He's played everything from a Klingon ("Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country), Sherlock Holmes ("Murder by Decree"), the Incan king/god Athualpa ("Royal Hunt of the Sun"), Mike Wallace ("The Insider"), John Barrymore ("Barrymore" - stage performance), to multiple Shakespearean characters, and the list goes on and on. His voice has been lent to animated movies and given life to characters such as the Grand Duke from MGM's "Rock-a-Doodle" and most recently, the conniving Charles Muntz from Pixar's "Up."

I've had the chance to accumulate memorabilia from many parts of his storied career, collecting VHS and DVD copies of his more popular films, 8mm transfers of his early work, and unique artifacts such as original costume test shots and one of my favorites, an autographed poster done for the Stratford Public Library in Canada which is only one of 30 known that Plummer has signed.

My set of original costume test shots from "The Sound of Music."  These were shipped from France with photocopies of the original paperwork accompanying the photos from 20th Century Fox.
Yeah, I was the weird one. When kids my age were having obnoxious crushes over Jonathan Taylor Thomas and Leonardo di Caprio, I was the one watching Christopher Plummer in throwback films and enjoying the sheer talent and grace on stage that has kept him going for decades. That longevity has been rewarding, and he's still entertaining another generation of movie and theatre-goers.

According to the Stratford Public library, Christopher Plummer only signed 30 of these posters. I entered a charity drawing with the library to win one of these and my name was drawn. Not bad for sending $10 to Canada!
A little over 11 years ago, I began an online unofficial fan club on Yahoo! Groups dedicated to Christopher Plummer to teach myself the ins and outs of moderating online groups and message boards. Currently it's well over 200 members and has continued to have some level of activity over the last few years. Users have contributed many photos and articles to its archive, and it still ranks as one of the largest Christopher Plummer-related message boards on the Internet. It's a strange accomplishment that I forget about at times but it's a unique project that's lingered on for so long.

So there's my story on how I've admired my favorite actor. He's living proof that there's no school like the old school.

To visit the fan club, visit


Updated Itinerary: Trip to San Jose, CA

About two weeks left until departure! Eleanor's just needs an oil change and another driving light installed and she's ready to go.

This is version 6 of the ride route. It's pretty much the same as the first route, except that the destination cities have been changed. Due to an event being rescheduled, I will be staying in northern CA for an additional day and as a result, will have to extend my daily miles to make up for lost time on the return back (average about 625 miles per day). This shouldn't change much barring any technical difficulties during the trip.

6/30 - Depart from Columbus, OH
7/1-7/2 - Green River, WY (BunBurner Gold 1500 7/1, BunBurner 1500 7/2)
7/3 - Reno, NV
7/3 or 7/4-7/8 - San Jose/Oakland, CA
7/9 - Navarro Redwoods State Park, then ride to Eugene, OR
7/10 - Missoula, MT
7/11 - Spearfish, SD
7/12 - LaCrosse, WI
7/13 - Columbus, OH

View Larger Map


Food Review: Taste of Thai (Columbus, OH - Polaris)

As my way to celebrate completing the MSF Basic Rider Course last weekend, I decided to eat at a brand new Thai restaurant that's located near the Polaris shopping area that I noticed while I was riding down the street. It's called Taste of Thai and it's a small, family owned venue that is conveniently near Chase Bank's main headquarters and several other office buildings in the area.

Yep, another food stop for me and Eleanor!
When I walked in, I was immediately greeted by the hostess wearing traditional Thai clothing. It was pretty slow for a Sunday (I was the only customer in the store). The restaurant's interior is a very simple and quaint atmosphere with traditional Thai art. There was also a TV screen playing various videos on Thai food and Thailand tourism.

I ordered an appetizer and a noodle plate for my main course. For the appetizer, I requested their crab rangoons. I was quite surprised by their take on this entree that's often seen on many a Chinese restaurant menu; it was spiked with curry! That along with the sweet sauce was definitely a great first impression to what ended up becoming a great meal. I accompanied this dish with delicious tall glass of Thai iced tea.

Extremely light and flavorful interpretation of an Asian snack!
The main course was a very unique take at Pad See Ew, a noodle dish with sweet sauce, beef, and carrots. This is one of my favorite Thai foods and one I used to indulge on during those boring weekly teacher meetings I had at my old job. This rendition used the same thin, flat noodles used in Pad Thai instead of the traditional wide flat rice noodles that I've always seen in Pad See Ew. The gamble surely paid off, and the dish was delicious and extremely flavorful.

Very tasty and quite filling!
For those looking for a spicy kick, all of these dishes can be made to "Thai spec" with the extra heat. For me, I requested the mild version of all these dishes, and all were very tasty.

I highly recommend this restaurant if you're looking for a diverse menu of REAL Thai food made by native Thai people. This is one of the better Thai restaurant that I've eaten at and one of the tastier ones in Columbus. I'd like to return to sample more of their dishes.

Taste of Thai is located at 8489 Sancus Blvd, Columbus, OH 43240, behind City Barbecue.

UPDATE (9/11/12): It appears this restaurant is permanently closed.


Trip Draft: Columbus to San Jose, CA (6/30-7/13/11)

All right folks, it's June and that means it's less than a month to my annual ride to the Women On Wheels® International Ride-In, wherever the heck it is.

This year, I get to ride west back to my home state of CA to the northern coast of San Jose. It'll be my chance to return to the Golden State for the first time since February and it'll be the first trip home for Eleanor since she left in late August 2009.

I don't have a lot of time to take off for this journey, and with this year's Ride-In being clear across the country I have to cover a lot of ground and attempt to get to the West Coast in four days or less. I have covered this distance before (in reverse from Los Angeles to Columbus), taking a little over four days so this won't be too much of a stretch. To try to make the push a little more rewarding, I will attempt a second Iron Butt run, either a BunBurner 1500 (1500 miles in 36 hours), BunBurner Gold 1500 (1500 miles in 24 hours), or a SaddleSore 2000 (2000 miles in 48 hours). After my successful SaddleSore 1000 in August 2010, I know that I am capable of this task, and I think the comfort adjustments I made to Eleanor will be a huge advantage in eating up the distance.

On the return, I will be crossing through several states I have not ridden a motorcycle through (or been): Oregon, Washington, Montana, and Wisconsin. This trip will bring my total number of states crossed with Eleanor to 43, leaving Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana to finish the Continental 48 states on the same motorcycle.

Here's the current itinerary:
6/30 - Depart from Columbus, OH
7/1-7/2 - Green River, WY (BunBurner Gold 1500 7/1, BunBurner 1500 7/2)
7/3 - Reno, NV
7/3 or 7/4-7/7 - San Jose, CA
7/8 - Navarro Redwoods State Park, then ride to Portland, OR (or as far as I can in that direction)
7/9 - somewhere between Spokane, WA and Billings, MT
7/10 - Chamberlain, SD
7/12 - Milwaukee, WI
7/13 - Return to Columbus, OH

Approximate distance (assuming no by-ways or tourist-like stops...yeah, right) = 5700 miles

View Larger Map

More to come soon as plans develop. This year's ride will be a doozy, but it'll be lots of fun!


My experience with the MSF Basic Rider Course (Range Portion) - Part 2 of 2

Continued from Part 1 (Classroom Portion)

Yesterday (Saturday) and today were the two sections of range exercises for the MSF Basic Rider Course. During this time, the class is on actual motorcycles practicing the fundamentals of basic operation and maneuvering.

Time to choose your ride! Lucky for us, the rain subsided right before class began today.
For the first day, I got to the practice area around 8AM. There were 24 students that reported for this session to be split into two sections of 12 riders each, divided by which classroom session we took earlier that week. The bikes were all lined up in rows and all the students were instructed to select a motorcycle that fits them the best. At this course venue, we had the ability to choose from four models of bikes: Suzuki GN125, Suzuki GZ250, Yamaha TW200, and the Honda Rebel 250.
Suzuki GN125
Suzuki GZ250
Yamaha TW200
Honda Rebel 250
For my bike, I went with the Yamaha TW200, a dual-sport motorcycle with wide tires and a very upright, dirtbike-like posture. I was tempted to the Suzuki GZ250 as it had been bike I used in my basic rider course many years ago (and became my first owned motorcycle), but with noticing the number of (short) women that were choosing their motorcycles, I went for the taller bike. It was a little tall so backing up and pushing it forward was a bit taxing in the early exercises, but its nimbleness made it so easy to maneuver it in the later drills.

Here's "my" bike for the weekend, a 2009 Yamaha TW200


My experience with the MSF Basic Rider Course (Classroom Portion) - Part 1 of 2

After riding for many years and finally having an opportunity to pursue the possibility of becoming a certified Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) instructor, I've finally decided to start the process. So, part of the prerequisites to become an MSF instructor in Ohio, I'm taking the Basic Rider Course (BRC) as to complete it for my instructor application.

For those who haven't heard about the Basic Rider Course, here's a little bit about it:
In the state of Ohio, the BRC course is required for riders under the age of 18 and can be taken in lieu of the on-the-motorcycle test given by the BMV (Bureau of Motor Vehicles) to receive the full motorcycle endorsement. You do NOT have to own a motorcycle or have had experience on a bike to take the course; it is designed to teach those who have NEVER ridden a motorcycle before.

Changes to Two-Wheeled Tourist...Prepping for Long-Distance Coverage!

This blog just keeps getting bigger and better!!!

Over the last few years I've kept track of my journeys on the motorcycles with blogs and websites. For 2011, I'm now going to take full advantage of the speed of social networking (and my Android phone) to connect more of my online friends to my adventures across the country on two wheels. Please check out my updates listed below!

URL: Two-Wheeled Tourist is now For those traditionalists out there, you can still access the page through

Facebook: Two-Wheeled Tourist now has a Facebook page! Visit and hit "Like" to receive updates on your News Feed! There's also a clickable window on the right side of the page that will connect you to the Facebook page.

Twitter: In the spirit of micro-blogging and frequent updates, I now have a Twitter account! Follow me @2wheeledtourist. Tweets will be sent to the Facebook page and if you're a friend, to my main wall. If you don't have a Twitter account, you can also follow along with Twitter updates on the right side of the page.

E-mail: For those who don't work with social networking sites, you can follow along by traditional e-mail. Standard blog posts will be e-mailed to you as soon as they're published!


The Subaru's got a new lease on life!

I got a rare opportunity to see my old Subaru post-mortem last week. As I mentioned in a previous blog post "In Memoriam," I sold the insurance totaled car to Mullins Body Shop to save it from a future in a scrap yard. After visiting its repair in progress, I was reassured even further that it'll see the road once again.

After work on Friday, I rode the FJR over to the body shop to swap out my locking trailer hitch pin on the car and replace it with the original standard one; this was the last part that I needed to provide the body shop so they could remove the hitch if necessary. Here's some pics of the awesome job that's been done to get this car working again.

The entire right front panel was removed to be repainted and replaced. Replacement suspension was installed and the wheel will be swapped out with a new one.
Closeup of the repaired front end. 
Front passenger door was partially primed for a repaint and the gold side panels removed for additional repair.
Currently, the car's been deemed parking lot worthy and is expected to make it to ODOT inspection this week to be certified ready for the road. As a request from Ronnie (the guy who's fixing it), he asked me to turn on the car and listen to the engine to make sure it sounded just as it did before the accident. I turned the key and it roared back to life just as it did before this entire mess happened.

The "taxi" lives again...I'm still going to miss it, though. :(


Rider Review: Firstgear Women's Mojave Gloves

I had the opportunity to test the Firstgear Women's Mojave Gloves for the last 1000 miles and they've earned a spot in my normal lineup of hot-weather gloves. I picked up this pair from my friends at MOTOHIO European Motorbikes in Columbus.

Overall, I was quite pleased with the fit of these gloves. Firstgear has created a glove that actually fits a real woman's hand that doesn't bind or squeeze the fingers when grabbing the controls. I would highly recommend this pair for both cruiser and touring riders alike, especially those who want more low-key reinforced knuckle protection.
My only real qualms with these gloves was that some of the stitching in the thumb bothered me a bit until I really broke it in. Additionally, the wrist closure still leaves a hole when velcroed shut that'll leave a nice spot tan if you're out in the sun long enough (pic of gap below). Other than that, it's a glove that'll go the distance and keep your hands cool and comfortable for those long rides.

The opening at the bottom of the wrist does add to comfort, but don't be surprised if you get a tan spot.
- gel palm for those longer rides
- pre-curved fingers that are meant to grab onto handlebars
- perforated leather that's tough as well as breathable
- easy fit in the hands thanks to squared-off finger stalls

- considerably longer break-in time, but worth the wait
- hole in wrist can leave a nice glove tan

MSRP for the Firstgear Mojave gloves is $59.95 and available in both men's and women's sizes. More information available @


Pre-San Jose Trip Warm-Up: 900 miles in 3 days

Two weeks ago, in preparation for my 6000-mile round-trip ride to San Jose, CA, I had the chance to do some practice long-distance riding over three days via highways.

Day 1: Columbus to Cleveland (Akron and Aurora) and back via I-71, I-80 and I-271 (approx. 294 miles)
Day 2: Columbus to Champaign, IL via I-70, I-465, and I-74 (approx. 297 miles)
Day 3: Champaign, IL to Columbus via I-74, I-465, I-70 (approx. 297 miles)
Total miles (approx.) = 900

I was lucky those three days to ride in 60-85°F and encounter rain only twice (short sprays in Indianapolis on the way to and from Columbus). However, I did realize a few things after taking this "quick" trek through three states.

1. Fatigue. After doing this mileage regimen for several days, I still felt comfortable on the saddle. However, thanks to a six-day work week, I definitely need at least a day or two to relax and do nothing before shooting for the 600+ mile days (or more).

2. Warmth/humidity. I will definitely need a mesh jacket before this trip. I chose to ride without my evaporative cooling vest and it was quite warm on the return to Columbus. Thanks to my trip to Cleveland, I have my sights set on the Olympia Airglide Mesh 3 women's jacket in a neon yellow/black. This jacket also includes a waterproof and thermal liner that will allow me to use the jacket in temps below 50 degrees. Other option is to dig out my retired FirstGear mesh jacket that has been with me through two cross-country campaigns and use it one last time.

3. Resting the wrist. After all the straight-line riding I have decided to plunk down the money and pick up a BrakeAway Motorcycle Cruise Control. Believe it or not, I have done multiple cross-country trips without the use of a throttle-lock device, relying only on a Crampbuster wrist rest to maintain speeds for long periods of time. That's definitely going to change.

4. Adding lights. Eleanor's getting one extra upgrade with the addition of LED auxiliary driving lights from Real Time Industries. These lights bolt directly to the bike via the front fender screws, eliminating any need for extra brackets. This will definitely help in the more remote areas of the country when additional light will be helpful in seeing farther ahead on the road.

That's all for now. Going to continue riding and getting accustomed to those huge numbers again for this trip!


In Memoriam: the Subaru "Taxi" (9/29/04-5/13/11)

After six years and 109,881 miles, the 2003 Subaru Outback wagon that I've owned since college was totaled by insurance under unforseen circumstances. Not the way I wanted to see that machine go.

I'm going to miss this car. I acquired it during at the beginning of my second year at USC as a replacement to my "first" car, a 2000 Ford Taurus SE, a vehicle that my brother put more miles on than I did due to the fact that my parents didn't allow me to drive to school because I was female and by default, inferior and unable to operate a vehicle safely. (That's a story/social commentary on Asian parents for another day.) That Taurus got me around from Point A to Point B, but it didn't capture my heart like this Subaru station wagon did.

I chose the Subaru for a few reasons. I wanted a car that was a wagon to carry all my hockey goalie gear, all-wheel drive, reliable with an excellent track record, and NOT a Honda or Toyota because damn near everyone in CA owned one. But most importantly, it was a functional car that did everything I needed it to do. And as soon as I got it, I was free to roam wherever I desired to go.

I rolled out of the dealer lot of Timmons Subaru in Long Beach, CA with exactly 18k miles on the odometer. By the next week, torrential rains had hit Southern CA and stuck around for more than two weeks straight. As streets flooded due to clogged-up drains and non-desert level rain, my car sliced through the daily commute as other vehicles stalled and were trapped in the watery mess. Within the next couple years, that car would see many a hockey trip, long drives of the CA coast to San Francisco, the occasional trip to Las Vegas, moving days for friends, professional videography sessions, and more drop-offs and pick-ups from LAX airport for more people than I could count. Thanks to all those passengers that I moved from here to there with the Subaru, it earned the name "Taxi."

The Subaru was my motorcycle before I became a fully competent and confident rider. It was my freedom and escape from the "nos" and "you can'ts" that I'd hear in my household on a regular basis. Heck, at one time, a trip to Vancouver, BC, Canada was even in the works! When the motorcycles became my primary vehicles, the car was always there whenever I was ready to travel to another hockey game or had to take more passengers than the bike would allow. Here's some of the interesting moments I was able to get with the camera:

Las Vegas (January 2008): I make the super-wise decision to drive the Taxi STRAIGHT into a packed pile of Zamboni-dumped snow at the hockey rink. Matt triumphantly stands in front of my mess. Ironically, it never got stuck in snow in Ohio, and there was whole lot more of it here!
Las Vegas (August 2009): The Taxi proves that it can haul more than just passengers. It manages to pull a trailer containing two full-size motorcycles, a scooter, and every possible inside orifice stuffed with things to take to Ohio. With the car now gone, we no longer own any of the vehicles in this picture, trailer included. :(
Somewhere in Iowa (August 2009): Fuzzy takes full advantage of the Subaru's A/C system. He was in the front seat for the entire trip!
Columbus, OH (11/27/09): The Subaru sees REAL snow for the first time. It survived two Ohio winters, not bad for a car that was never expected to leave California!
December 2009: Oh Taxi, where did you end up taking us to? On a bright note, we were able to drive to much larger frozen ponds to do some real pond hockey!
On a bright note, the car won't see its demise in a junk yard crushed into a cube. The owner of Mullins Body Shop in Galloway, OH, the place that I had the car towed to, liked it so much that he bought the car off of me with the intention of repairing and using it again. I wish him the best of luck, especially because the car's front suspension was twisted like a twig.

That car was a tough act to follow, but I'm sure that its replacement will serve us well as it did. The Subaru's successor is a Forest Green 1999 BMW E39 528i wagon with 108k miles on the odometer that we picked up from Carmean Auto Group in Carroll, OH. Matt pointed out that, according to BMW nomenclature, the wagon is technically a 528tai (t = touring, a = automatic, i = fuel injection). If it were an all-wheel drive version (designated by BMW as "x"), it would've been a 528taxi! That would've been quite fitting, actually.

Here's to [hopefully] many years of potential adventures with the Bimmer. Now it just needs to earn a name!


Test Ride Review: 2011 Triumph Tiger 800

Last week I took a field trip to Akron, OH to participate in a Triumph demo event hosted by Northern Ohio Ducati Triumph with hopes of test riding the new Triumph Tiger 800 and Sprint GT 1050. For the second time that I've attended these events in the last year (the other one being at MOTOHIO European Motorbikes in Columbus), Triumph didn't make the Sprint GT available for test rides. I speculate that they're selling them like hotcakes. Here's my last blog post regarding the Sprint GT.

Triumph has two versions of the Tiger 800: the 800 and 800XC. The latter is a more off-road oriented version with spoked wheels, a taller, wider seat, and handguards. I test rode the regular 800 in Crystal White.

2001 Triumph Tiger 800. The XC model (also in Crystal White) is in the background.
Test Ride Remarks:
I rode an 8-9 mile round trip route through main streets and residential roads. The crawling traffic allowed me to test its balance in slow speed maneuvers and I was extremely impressed. Acceleration was quick and shifting was smooth. Like its big brother, the Tiger 1050, the powerband was easily accessible in every gear. In the sharper corners, the Tiger leaned into curves without much effort and its lightweight chassis made it easy to flick around. Braking was crisp and sensitive with stainless steel brake lines included standard (Japanese bike makers, please take note).

The Titanium/Carbon Fiber Arrow exhaust is definitely a nice upgrade!
The on-board controls include a digital speedometer, fuel gauge, dual trip odometer, analog tachometer, and *drum roll* gear indicator!
Factory option saddlebags (as shown on the Tiger 800XC). Notice the notch made to accommodate the exhaust pipe.
I would like to see how this bike would fare in long distance or prolonged rides. In terms of traveling range, the 5 gallon tank in addition to it being an 800cc triple cylinder bike would make it a formidable long-distance rider. I would estimate this bike to get anywhere from 45-55MPG which would make it super economical at the pump.

- Well-balanced and extremely easy to handle around corners and slow-speed maneuvers.
- Spirited six-speed engine with full range of power available with the flick of a wrist.
- Optional Arrow titanium exhaust has a wonderful deep sound and burble to it.
- Cleated footpegs are standard and ready for those occasional dual-sport excursions.
- Adjustable stock seat height from 31.9-32.7 inches.
- Just knocked the Tiger 1050 off my already short list of bikes to acquire!

- Handlebars are a quite wide and could be tilted back a bit further.
- Clutch's friction zone takes longer to engage (the lever has to be nearly all the way out for the bike to start moving).
- High-mounted exhaust pipe will make mounting saddlebags a little challenging.
- Shorter inseam riders may need to make a few adjustments.

Special thanks to the guys at Northern Ohio Ducati Triumph for hosting this test riding event. If you're ever in the Cleveland (Akron) area and want to stare at bikes and hang out in their gorgeous showroom, come by for a visit!

For manufacturer information about the Triumph Tiger (and their other bikes), visit