Google+ Two-Wheeled Tourist: February 2011


How to put 100,000 miles on a single motorcycle, Christine style.

In February 2006 I was in the showroom of Out the Door Motorsports in Los Angeles waiting for the service department to finish prepping my brand new yellow 2005 Suzuki SV650N so I could ride it home that day. While I was killing time in the showroom, out of the corner of my eye I saw a shiny silver 2006 Yamaha FJR1300A on display.

I immediately fell in love with its contours and its sleek design. That sport-touring motorcycle captured my imagination and I dreamed of the places I could go and sights I could see with a powerful, mile-eating machine like that. After reading its specs and realizing that it was a 1300cc, 147HP monster with luggage, I thought to myself, "There is no way I'd be able to ever ride that kind of bike."


Day 7 and 8: Revisiting the OC and back to Columbus

Southern CA sure does know how to send me off on a bright note.

Once again, I could see Downtown LA and all of its surrounding cities in the distance.
Before I left to return the motorcycle to Brea on Saturday, I took some time to enjoy an ice cold glass of lemonade while admiring the clear view of the South Bay from my vantage point in Rolling Hills. It was gorgeous as I had remembered it when I still lived out here, and for several minutes I reminisced about those wonderful roads and those thousands of miles that I had ridden in, around, and through this part of the state.

I then rode back to Brea to return the bike to Victor, but not without sneaking one more ride on Palos Verdes Drive East. It was the clearest day this week and temps were in the mid 70s by the time I hit the road around noon. But this time, I didn't zoom through all those curves like I did those many times before. Instead I stopped at the first turnout to enjoy the view before my decent to sea level.

Catalina Island, only 26 miles out to sea and completely visible.
This is the first curve leading downhill on PV Drive East (or the last one uphill if you're going the other way). This road has quite a bit of sentimental meaning to me; the last person who managed to keep up with me during the entire ride down later became my husband!
I dropped off the bike and Victor took it to ride to a party in LA. I had his car for a few hours and drove over to the Daphne's Greek Cafe in Brea for round two of gyros, pitas, and rice. Thanks to an e-mailed coupon for a free plate I received on Thursday, lunch was next to nothing and I enjoyed a meal here for the last time during this trip.

To kill a little more time, I drove a few miles down to the new location of Hockey Giant in Anaheim to stare at some gear and then up the street into the neighboring city of Orange to visit Irv Seaver Motorcycles, the BMW dealer where Matt had purchased his (now deceased) 2000 K1200RS. After staring at a few bikes and picking up a couple t-shirts, I returned to Victor's apartment to hang out until he rode back.

After he returned to Brea, we drove back to a Starbucks in Torrance, met up with one last friend from CAMS, and Vic went home. I spent about an hour and a half hanging out with my other friend at the neighboring Best Buy and catching up. The next morning, I had breakfast with my parents and they took me to LAX. The flight back to Columbus with a stopover in St. Louis was quite uneventful and I was back in Ohio by 8:30PM. Whew, what a week!

On a bright note, temperatures in Columbus are continuously rising and road conditions are now rideable. Looking forward to Spring! Stay tuned for more of my adventures on two wheels and my next CA visit in July where I get to hang out in San Jose for 25th Annual Women On Wheels® International Ride-In!


Day 6: Hawaiian BBQ, CAMS, and hockey...a Day in the South Bay

Riding all over the LA and Orange counties had me a bit worn out by the time I made it to Friday. Today was the chance to hang around my old digs and catch up with a few people from my local areas of Carson and El Segundo.

My first order of business was to eat lunch at the last food establishment on my vacation agenda. That led to a trip to the L & L Hawaiian BBQ in Torrance (Crenshaw/Lomita). I specifically chose this one because I was a frequent customer at this particular location, and I was pleasantly surprised to see that several of the workers were still there. After ordering my mini chicken katsu/BBQ chicken plate (it's not very mini as you'll see in the picture) I requested to get one of their famous "I ♥ L & L" bumper stickers. They would give it to me on the condition that I would say said phrase out loud in the restaurant. So I did, much to the chagrin of the other patrons in the store, with the additional embellishment:

Making a fool of myself inside the restaurant was definitely worth the bumper sticker.
Believe it or not, this is what L & L sells as a "mini" plate. For little more than $5 you can feed two people with this ridiculous amount of meat, rice, and Hawaiian-style macaroni salad.
After that, I headed to my parents' house to pack a box full of stuff to send back to Ohio. I traveled with my brother (in his car) to Office Depot to pick up a box and mailing tape. Now, this may not seem like an interesting errand run, but it was the first time I had shopped at an Office Depot in two years - there aren't any locations in Columbus (the closest one is about 35 miles north in Marion).

After that shipping exercise it was a ride to Cal State Dominguez Hills, home to my high school, the California Academy of Mathematics and Science (CAMS). This was a place where, even after I graduated and was attending community college, I spent many a Friday afternoon for a couple years hanging around and being the technology TA for the Spanish department. There's a long-standing history between me and that part of the school, and in ironic fashion, for being a place that focused on math and science, I found my niche in the humanities and foreign language. CAMS is a place that I will go out of my way to spend time to visit; there are too many teachers of whom I will never be able to thank enough for their patience, time, and life-changing guidance.

A view of the main CAMS buildings from the courtyard area.
This additional structure that I call the "6000" building (that's what the numbers start with) was completed after I graduated and now houses the student cafeteria, foreign language department, language labs, and dance studio among other things.
Here is a robot that students in the Engineering Lab are working on. This new, dedicated state-of-the-art classroom is equipped with multiple CNC machines and enough equipment to build a whole slew of various robotic and electronic projects. The Robotics class is one of the most popular activities here, and it's come a long way since I helped manage the very first robotics team at CAMS almost nine years ago where we worked out of a spare room in the biology lab.
Unlike my visit to the now-dilapidated LASGS the previous day, CAMS' appearance and newly added facilities were a realization of the vision for this school and a vast improvement from the original site of the high school, the temporary bungalows of the Southern Academic Complex (SAC), where I learned (and got in trouble) in until the last semester of my senior year in 2002. CAMS still ranks as one of the best high schools in the United States and I am proud to be an alumni and a product of this educational institution.

Just across an empty field are the SAC 4 (left) and SAC 3 (right) structures, two of the four bungalows that once housed this high school.
My last stop of the evening was the Toyota Sports Center in El Segundo, the practice facility of the Los Angeles Kings and the Lakers and the rink where I played ice and roller hockey for a decade. I met up with another old teammate from my USC Women's Ice Hockey team, went for a fun public skate on the Olympic-sized rink, and watched bits and pieces of games in the women's league. I even saw several members of my last ice hockey team in CA, the Gold Lady Kings, as they suited up and played in the final game of the night.

Toyota Sports Center has three skating rinks (one roller, one NHL-sized, one Olympic-sized). I spent many a Friday night playing roller pick-up hockey here until I was randomly asked to sub for a women's ice hockey game and never looked back.
There's one of the hockey creases I defended on the NHL-sized rink for ten years. Come by in the morning and you might even get to watch an LA Kings open practice!
This was definitely a nostalgia-filled Friday. These two locations were my regular routine stops for many years and to return to these places after so long brought back many memories. Call me sentimental, but I'll never forget my roots.


Day 5: Downtown LA and South Pasadena

Today took me back to my old place employment, the Los Angeles School of Global Studies, where I helped open the school and teach a Digital Production/Multimedia program for three years before I moved to Ohio. Personally, this would be the last time that I will be returning to that school as many of the students that I had taught are graduating at the end of this school year. I met for lunch with my old co-worker and took a tour of the campus. Before we went across the street for some authentic Mexican food, I was mobbed by many seniors that were shocked to find out that I was visiting from Ohio. I was very surprised how many students actually recognized me and it was heartwarming to see how many of them will be graduating and moving on to bigger and greater things.

What saddened me was the condition of the building that I had seen as a pristine new campus only five years ago. The school had changed so much that I didn't recognize it anymore. Thanks to LAUSD budget cuts on custodians and teachers getting pink slips/layoffs, the faculty was completely new and the hallways looked like a dilapidated mess. I took a glimpse of my old classroom and saw how little it resembled the technology oasis that I created when I still taught there.

My old school is located inside the Miguel Contreras Learning Complex. The white building to the left is the headquarters to the Los Angeles Unified School district, the second-largest school district in the United States and a shining beacon of corrupt bureaucracy amidst the Downtown LA skyline.
Here's the door to my classroom. I am proud to say that I was the very first teacher to instruct in that room. Perhaps someday I may return to this profession.
My old co-worker and I walked across the street to a small Mexican food establishment that had reopened there recently. For a few minutes I was back in a place where English wasn't the predominant language. I was even served a big cup of horchata (sweet rice drink with cinnamon) with my meal that consisted of pollo de la plancha (grilled chicken), refried beans, and rice with slices of avocado on top. Mexican restaurants in Ohio, please take note: you're not a legit Mexican restaurant if you don't serve horchata. Coke products are not the solution to everything. 

Some of the best Mexican food comes from small holes in the wall where you need to know Spanish to know what the heck they're making.
CA avocados are just garnish here, not an extra charge.
After lunch, we headed back to campus and I hung around until 2:30PM, seeing even more students and some of the co-workers I wanted to actually say hello to. I then hopped on the motorcycle and headed on the CA-60 East freeway to East LA to meet another old co-worker who now taught at Garfield High School. We traversed down Atlantic Ave. into the city of Monterey Park for some catching up and Starbucks. After that she led me down the road to South Pasadena so I could meet up with another friend from USC.

Here's my old co-worker Lorraine with the bike and her Scion XB. In LA, I can recognize that car from anywhere.
She returns the favor and captures a shot of me before we part ways in South Pasadena!
I like to call my old friend from USC "the one with the fuzzies." As an animal lover and activist she lives with a variety of animals ranging from a pair of Chow Chows, a cat, a ferret, and a (haired) rat! I guess there is never such thing as having too many fuzzy animals. Her mom invited me to a delicious, home-cooked dinner where I had a hearty combination of pan seared halibut, vegan beef stew (the "beef" is grain-based, but I couldn't tell!), and brown rice. We then ran a few errands and spent a few hours catching up on our adventures.

For as long as I've lived in CA, I never spent enough time in Pasadena to consider it familiar territory. Thanks to that, took the roundabout way home after getting on the wrong end of the 210 freeway (San Fernando) near the Rose Bowl. The detour took me down the CA-2 Glendale freeway where temps dropped into the 40s (the coldest it's been during this entire trip) before I landed back on 5 South and eventually onto the 110 South Harbor Freeway. It was worth it though; the view of Downtown LA against the clear night sky from the hills of La Cañada Flintridge was spectacular.

Day 6 (Friday) will take me back to the high school I graduated from, the California Academy of Math and Science in Carson and the Toyota Sports Center in El Segundo, a place I called my hockey home for over a decade. Perhaps a stop at L&L's Hawaiian BBQ in Torrance too, the last official eatery in my catch-up agenda.

Day 4: Cruising Through Orange County

For day 4 of this California trip, I spent the day in Orange County, having lunch in Huntington Beach with my old friends from the Women On Wheels® Orange County Spirit Riders chapter. To get to the meeting spot, I took the scenic route, avoiding the freeways and riding across the Vincent Thomas Bridge through Downtown Long Beach and southbound on Pacific Coast Highway (CA-1) until I reached Laguna Beach. In that span, I passed through Seal Beach, Huntington Beach, Newport Beach to name a few of the more well-known areas. It was great to see this familiar scenic road, a stretch of the coastline that I often rode to pass the time, see the ocean, and calm the senses.

Finbar's Italian Kitchen in Seal Beach (LA/OC County Line). This is where Matt and I met for the first time. We left from this place for a ride through the Palos Verdes Loop. The rest is history.
From this vantage point in Huntington Beach, you can make out Catalina Island in the distance. It's about 26 miles off the coast and is a popular weekend getaway.
I spent half an hour in Laguna Beach to pick up a few souvenirs and continued on CA-133 into Irvine, running up the 405 North freeway back to Huntington Beach for lunch at Daphne's Greek Cafe at the Bella Terra Center.

This sign couldn't summarize it any better.
Here's one of the original signs that welcomed visitors to Laguna Beach. There are quite a few more people here now.
Daphne's is a West Coast Greek food chain and is still one of my all-time favorite places to eat. I was happy to see my friends again while indulging on a plate of gyros there for the first time in two years.

My favorite plate at Daphne's - gyros with a double side of rice. Nom nom nom!
Pesto on hummus? That's a new addition within the last two years. I'll try that mixture at home.
My WOW OC Spirit Riders friends! Left to Right: Terry, Syl, Jill (fmr. Chapter Director), Nancy, and Debbie (fmr. Chapter Director)
We stuck around for almost an hour and a half talking about our riding adventures and fun times before parting ways again. I ended up getting into a near two-hour conversation with Jill about some of our crazy motorcycle trips. Somewhere in there we even had a chat with a curious passer-by who was interested in her BMW G650GS. (We always love to be positive ambassadors for motorcycling!)

After Jill left for the evening, I headed down the 405 South, connecting to CA-55 North (and quite bit of traffic congestion), back onto the 5 South freeway, and exiting Jamboree Road. Continuing east on Jamboree, I began what had been known for Matt and me as the "long way home." This route starts from the Southern California AAA branch in Tustin and ends back in La Habra. We often used this route for a more scenic (and stress-free) alternative to the freeways, and the view of Yorba Linda and Placentia from the highest part of Anaheim Hills is a quite a beautiful one on a clear night.

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The ride ended in Brea where I met back up with Victor and took a short drive to Fry's Electronics in Tustin. Fry's is the largest electronic store in CA and is notorious for having damn near everything that beeps or has buttons. We enjoyed an hour of being complete geeks and catching up. The closest store of this type in Columbus is a place called Micro Center (and it's nowhere close to the magnitude of this store). Getting to the closest Fry's Electronics in the Midwest would require a two-day car trip to Downers Grove, IL.

Yeah, this place is huge.
That's not even a third of the store!

The ride back to Rolling Hills was a little nippy to CA standards, about 58 degrees at 10PM. I'm really appreciating the heated grips on this bike! Next stops for Thursday are my last employer, the Los Angeles School of Global Studies, to see the last bunch of students who still know who I am, and East LA/South Pasadena to see an old co-worker and, if possible, an old classmate and teammate from USC.

Day 3: Pechanga and gambling like the Asian I am.

In customary fashion, I spent day 3 at Pechanga Casino and Resort in Temecula with my aunt. When I still lived in CA, we made it a tradition to go to the casino at least once every couple months for a little gambling and some gourmet dining.

We left for Pechanga around 11:30AM and stopped in the Lake Elsinore area on I-15 South to have a short lunch at Carl's Jr. This was the first time I had eaten at this place in nearly 2.5 years and it was definitely a treat. For the Ohioans out there, Carl's Jr. owns the Hardee's chain in the Midwest. Now don't be fooled, that watered-down Hardee's menu is nothing compared to the selection (and taste) of the original Carl's Jr.

Carl's Jr. and In-N-Out are two fast food chains that were founded in Southern California.
Hardee's, please take note of the selection - there actually is one.
Fried zucchini! Long time no eat!
We reached Pechanga around 2PM. After a slow start on a few dud machines, I won $100 off a nickel multi-play poker machine in about an hour of play time. For dinner, we dined at Kelsey's and I had a big juicy prime rib steak with a side of sauteed mushrooms and mashed potatoes. Might as well enjoy it now; it'll be slim pickings when I return to Ohio!

Despite leaving Temecula in rush-hour traffic, we still made it home in less than two hours. Pechanga is one of the closest Vegas-quality casino to anyone in the LA, Orange, Riverside, and San Diego counties. If I had some extra time, a return to Las Vegas would've been pretty cool too. Of course that'll call for another adventure.


Back to CA: Day 2

The day began with a walk to school.

My hockey coach's daughters go to school just down the street from the house so I tagged along with Mom and kids for an early morning stroll. Temps were just hitting 70 degrees by the time we got back. After that and a few e-mails, I was on my loaner motorcycle for the first time on the road testing its capabilities on the Palos Verdes Drive Loop.

So what's the deal with this motorcycle I get to play with in CA? Thanks to Victor, I get to play with his dyno tuned 2009 BMW K1300S motorcycle, equipped with a Givi topcase, a Leo Vince carbon fiber exhaust, and Power Commander. My only instructions for using the bike this week were to "put on the miles" and "don't crash."

I felt pretty confident riding the bike after half an hour of light twisties and switchbacks, and being the native Californian I am, I was lane sharing by the time I landed back in Torrance from the scenic Palos Verdes route. It was a great feeling to use this privilege again. Even after two years away from a state where this practice is encouraged it still felt like I never left.

I then met my aunt up for lunch at The Original Thai BBQ in Carson and caught up on stories and tasty Pad See Eew, BBQ chicken, shrimp fried rice, and a Thai tea. After that, it was a quick trip to my parents' house a couple blocks away to sort through a few things I wanted to take back to Ohio. My stay there was a little bit longer than I expected; sometime during my rummaging I had misplaced the key to the bike's Givi topcase and it took some time to realize that it had fallen in the same bag as the leftovers from the restaurant and was chilling in the refrigerator. Complete brain fart.

I left the house and jumped onto the 110 North freeway toward USC at 4PM, the start of rush hour traffic. Thanks to the carpool lane, I was going no slower than 65MPH and reached Exposition Blvd. in record time. I rolled into campus, had a quick conversation with a USC employee at the information booth about motorcycle instruction classes, parked the bike, and headed to the center of campus to take a few photos and pick up some swag from the bookstore.

Tommy Trojan in front of the Bovard Auditorium, still looking as regal as he always has.
This is the newest statue on campus made in the likeness of Traveler, the horse mascot of the USC. This is one of several gifts from departing USC President Steven Sample.
Here's a side view of Traveler. I had the chance to meet (and pet) one of the real Traveler horses during my senior year at USC.
The new and very revamped student union. This would've been cool when I still went here!
You know you're at USC when...every car in the lot costs at least one year of your salary.
I ended the day with a short ride through Downtown LA to meet an old co-worker from my previous job at a nearby high school and then to Del Amo Fashion Center to visit a few friends that worked at various stores there. The mall was probably one of biggest surprises of the day. The place had changed so much and many of the stores I had remembered were replaced by unknown and smaller establishments. In fact, the Gloria Jeans Coffee shop I had grown up with was gone as of last week, ending a 30-year stay at this mall. It was so strange to see so many closed spaces and relocated stores, a far cry from the mall that I had grown up with and spent almost every Friday night of my childhood in. It is amazing what a poor economy and greedy landlords can do to destroy what was once the largest malls in the United States.

Tomorrow's plan is a quick jaunt with the aunt to Pechanga Casino in Temecula for some good old gambling fun. Hitting a jackpot would be great timing right now.


Back to SoCal - the refesher course.

It's great to be back in Los Angeles.

Leaving the dreariness of 26 degrees and ice in Columbus at 10AM (Eastern Standard Time), I arrived at LAX at 1:30PM (Pacific Standard Time) today and was welcomed with sunny skies and 70 degrees. My friend Victor picked me up from the airport and we found ourselves in nearby Hawthorne waiting for a friend of his to return a phone call. However, that friend didn't call back and I was getting a bit hungry. After six hours in the air and nothing but small snacks and a couple cups of ginger ale to pass the time, I knew exactly where to go for lunch. You guessed it, In-N-Out Burger.

Victor and I visited the In-n-Out on Marine/Inglewood right off the 405 freeway in Redondo Beach.
Just the way I like it: a Double Double and Animal Fries, both covered in gratuitous amounts of grilled onions. I waited to indulge in this deliciousness for over a year! Nom nom nom.
After that, we drove back to Brea (North Orange County) to go see his new apartment and to pick up his motorcycle, which will be my mode of transporation for the week. Here are today's fuel prices in Brea, courtesy of your local Chevron.

I wonder which one of my organs I'll have to donate for a full tank.
These are temps you wouldn't see in Ohio until at least May.
Very familiar surroundings and a sunset I haven't seen in a couple years.
Look closely and you might even see the Downtown LA skyline in the distance.

I've got quite a bit to enjoy and accomplish in the upcoming week. As much fun as it is to go sightseeing, I am also job hunting and some research on possible places to send applications. So far, my findings have seen me looking at a possible opening at Cal State Northridge. I hope to find more inspiration during my stay here. Tomorrow brings motorcycle riding, lunch with my family, and more research!


I'm headed back to California!

Today begins a week-long trip back to Los Angeles, Orange County, and the surrounding areas. Two-Wheeled Tourist is going on tour and sharing the sights that were a part of my life for almost a quarter century.

Stay tuned on the blog for random pictures and tales of my (mis)adventures throughout Southern California!


International Motorcycle Show (Cleveland, OH) - 1/28-1/30/11

I had the chance to volunteer a few hours of my time last weekend at the Women Ride booth at the International Motorcycle Show at the I-X Center in Cleveland, OH. The show itself has downsized in the past few years due to the poor economy but is bouncing back with a revamped look and a new approach toward its ever-changing customer base. I was quite impressed with the show's larger emphasis on female riders which is, by far, the fastest growing sector of new motorcyclists today. I had a great time helping ladies try on several different types of motorcycle jackets and overpants and answering questions about helmets.

Here's a small part of the Women Ride section of the motorcycle show. Here ladies had the opportunity to try on some of the touring gear available for female riders. I got to assist in that for three hours!
When all that was done, I perused the show to check out some of the new (and redesigned) bikes coming out for 2011. Here are some of my favorites.

The new Kawasaki Ninja 1000 definitely has potential to be a great selling aggressive touring bike. With a 5.0 gallon gas tank, a three-way adjustable windshield, and the heart of the new Z1000, and a neutral seating posture for those long hours, it's a comfy crotch rocket that can travel.
Here's the new 2011 Kawasaki Ninja 650R. It's gotten a little facelift and a few new features. I like that metallic take on the trademark Kawi green.
Yay! I got to see and sit on a fully loaded 2011 Yamaha Super Téneré for the first time! Yamaha is definitely going after the BMW's R1200GS market with this bike, and I think it'll be a formidable alternative to spending the $20k for a loaded Bimmer.
Here's the 2011 Triumph Tiger 800 ready for a quick romp down the road or some state-hopping action. Triumph is going after BMW's F800 series bikes with this gorgeous addition. I'd definitely want to test this thing; I'm a big fan of its brother, the Tiger 1050.
The Triumph Speed Triple (and Street Triple) were both redesigned for 2011. That thing looks even more diabolical than the previous model. Me like.
And finally, here's Ducati's long anticipated Diavel (Carbon edition). Kinda reminds me of what would happen if a Duc Monster and a Yamaha Warrior had a one-night stand. Looks like fun! I so don't want to see the price tag.
Overall, it was a decent show this year. The booths weren't all leather shops and cruiser-only accessory stops. I was disappointed that BMW, Aprilia, and Moto Guzzi among others didn't show up in Cleveland again. It still boggles my mind that the dates for the International Motorcycle Show in this part of the United States take place so far into winter that it's impossible to ride a motorcycle there. I miss the days when I ran a Women On Wheels® booth at IMS in Long Beach, CA where there are test rides because weather in the first week of December is always going to be 70 degrees and sunny. If I had my way with the schedule, put the Midwest/Northeast shows earlier so riders can catch the last parts of fall! Driving a car to a motorcycle show is a walking oxymoron! Oh well, at least the bikes were shiny.