Google+ Two-Wheeled Tourist: 2012


Accepting the way the cookie crumbles...

Last week, I had the chance to participate in a Christmas activity for the first time in my life: festive cookie baking.

Now, I've baked mad stashes of cookies in the past, during various times of the year, but there's a charm to the special Christmas-only cookies that come with the season. Also, since I was staying in NE Ohio this weekend instead of making my weekly migration down to Columbus to see my husband, it gave me something to do that Saturday before he showed up.

M&M Candy Cookies and Butterballs! The powdered sugar on the Butterballs was all me.
What made this special was that I was creating treats from recipes that were several generations old, passed down from a grandmother who worked at a historical bakery in Cleveland and could whip up a dish regardless of what was in the pantry. Some additions have been made through the years, and as a guest I had the chance to indulge in a tradition with legendary concoctions that were many years in the making.

My first go at using a cookie press. I can say they came out quite well.
Preparing the Pinwheels for a trip through the oven.
The finished products! After posting this picture on Facebook, I was getting requests to send a number of these to California. Maybe I should quit my day job in December and just do this.


Food Review: Melt Bar and Grilled (Mentor, OH)

On a random Tuesday a few weeks ago I had the chance to visit a newly-opened Melt Bar and Grill restaurant in Mentor at the corner of OH-306 and US-20 (Mentor Ave.). It is a place that specializes in, like its name suggests, gourmet melted grilled cheese sandwiches. There are several of these in the Cleveland area and this one was their newest, most eastern location.

When I first entered the restaurant, I was immediately bombarded with a visual explosion of wall artwork and random decor of throwback Cleveland/Ohio-related photos, license plates, and the remnants of other restaurants its high walls. I spent quite a bit of time admiring the artwork, since the wait was quite long for a table for two (I was meeting up with a co-worker), about 30-35 minutes to be exact. So I used the time to peruse the menu, that was creatively pasted on the back of old LP record jackets, and check out the eccentric decor.

The ceiling was chock full of cultural references.
Tony Bennett on one side, a grilled cheese selection on the other.
At least I know where all the lighted, plastic-molded lawn decorations go to retire.
Once we were seated in very close quarters in a half-booth with other guests flanking us on both sides, we waited another five minutes for our server to arrive. I would've figured that most customers were ready to order by then with all the downtime, and I also wondered if they were understaffed for the evening.

So I killed time by staring at the menu again. Their drink selection did surprise me. Aside from the standard Coke products that one would see at a restaurant they also had a very extensive choice of root beers and ginger ale. For that evening I went with a bottle of Boylan's ginger ale, a bit stronger than the standard Segram's or Canada Dry variety.

For an appetizer, I requested a small cup of the Roasted Garlic Tomato Soup. Their version of this very common accessory to grilled cheese sandwiches was a bit unusual in both taste and texture. It had a very chunky consistency that made the mixture not very soupy, and I found a little bit too salty for my liking - this definitely needed to be taste tested before it made its way out to the customers. For a moment I thought I was eating hot, chunky salsa and I don't mean the spicy kind.

I did find the serving plates and bowls to be quite amusing. My soup was served in a throwback mug that one would find at a yard sale. Like the old LP covers that held the menus, it gave the place a much more homely, casual feel. The Goldfish crackers were a surprise, too.

For my main course selection I went with the gyro melt sandwich which was gyro meat, onions, and cheese melted in between two pieces of giant sourdough Texas toast sliced bread. The sandwich came with a side of freshly fried french fries. The sandwiches were so stuffed that it was a struggle to get through an entire half potion. The other half became the next day's work lunch.

Top: Mushroom Melt ($9), Bottom: Gyro Melt ($11). Both include a generous helping of fresh cut french fries, a scoop of homemade coleslaw, and a pickle.
Although the restaurant's concept and menu selection was very interesting and unique, it did have a few flaws first off the top. The French fries were a little burnt and reduced to inedible chips when I reached the bottom. Additionally, I found the gyro meat in the Gyro Melt to lack a bit of flavor and it seemed to overpower the entire sandwich. On the other hand, the Mushroom Melt was very flavorful and you could taste the carmelized onions and provolone cheese. In summary, it was a lot of food to behold but I felt the flair and flavor to be lacking, and there were moments in between bites when I wondered why people would wait close to an hour for a seat here.

My verdict? It's a chill place to visit, if you're patient and have a huge appetite. Usually those two traits don't go together, and I'd have to try a few more of the entrees to really judge if it's worth the wait. Personally, I wouldn't sit around for more than 15 minutes for a table to eat here, but I guess it has enough a charm that people are willing to do that.

Melt Bar and Grilled is located at 7289 Mentor Ave. in Mentor inside of the Points East Shopping Center. You can see their selections on their website at

Melt Bar and Grilled  on Urbanspoon


One last ride in NE Ohio for 2012...

A few weeks ago, Matt and I went out on the bike one one of the last nicer days of 2012 in NE Ohio to the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

One of our stops was at Brandywine Falls, a popular destination here in the park. Here are a few photos from that location.

After our visit, we scooted over to Cuyahoga Falls to have an old favorite snack at Strickland's Frozen Custard. We've known about this place for a number of years (there's a location in Irvine, CA), but this was the first time Matt had ice cream from this store in Ohio. I had gone to the original location in nearby Akron in 2009.

Due to my current living situation up here in NE Ohio, Eleanor's on vacation down in Columbus with Matt until the weather thaws out enough that I can ride every day again without risking my battery draining overnight due to the excessive cold. At the minimum, was a great detour to break the monotony of the car for just a little while.


On why I chose to ride a motorcycle.

A few nights ago, I had a strange conversation with my brother (who doesn't ride a motorcycle) about transportation and getting around in Ohio. When I had mentioned that I only had one car and two motorcycles between me and Matt and that we were in the process of acquiring a second car for winter driving purposes, he responded with this:

"I don't even know why you have a motorcycle out in the Midwest anyway. You don't have to deal with the kind of traffic [like we have in California]."

I was slightly taken aback by the comment, and I had to step back a little and consider that his point of view is valid to some degree. Yes, I don't have to deal with the same level of vehicular congestion in Ohio that I faced in the Los Angeles/Orange County region of California. However, horrible traffic is not, and has never been, the primary reason of why I ride a motorcycle. In fact it had everything with to do with not being allowed to drive a car...


Taking my motorcycle gas tank to the limit...

In one of my last rides back up to Mentor a few weeks ago, I decided to take a gamble and find out how far I could really stretch Eleanor's gas tank. I left Columbus at 11:30PM on a Sunday night and rode straight up the highway without stopping, rolling into the Speedway at OH-91/US-20 in the wee hours of Monday morning.

Here's a little bit of background information (for those who are new to my blog). Eleanor is a 2007 Yamaha FJR1300A. The gas tank in an FJR1300 has a capacity of 6.6 gallons and fuel economy averages anywhere from 35-43 MPG depending on traffic and riding conditions. When I ride mostly freeway and no faster than 70MPH, I can hover in the 39-41 MPG range. I think I was pretty successful in sipping almost every drop out of her.

In hindsight, testing this theory at 2AM during a non-stop ride from Columbus to Eastlake, OH wasn't one of the wisest things to do, but at least I now know that panicking doesn't begin until after 55 miles into reserve. Whatever. I still win.


A smooth sea never did make a seasoned sailor.

I saw that quote posted on a friend's Facebook page and felt that this quote was quite appropriate for a good summary of what's probably my last ride back down to Columbus for 2012.

The last several rides up and down I-71 have been pretty uneventful. Some days, it could be very warm and my heated gear isn't even plugged in. Other days may involve extra layers and my heated gear set to the "super toasty" setting. This most recent ride was the most challenging yet, with 160 miles of nothing but downpour, temps dropping to the mid-40s, and several cars downright refusing to yield on a merge despite turn signals and outstretched hands pointing into the lane I needed to merge into. I can say, that my years of riding, thousands of miles traveled, and choices/investments in gear have paid off for days like this. And even though this wasn't my most favorite riding conditions by any means, I am still proud to say that still I'm powering through on a motorcycle.

Considering that Eleanor has been my only source of transportation up in Northeast Ohio since I moved in September, I have managed to stretch out my riding time as far as I could take it without risking my personal safety due to road conditions. As I know that I will admit defeat this weekend and switch out for the car, thanks to the impending "Frankenstorm" and potential early snowdrifts off of Lake Erie among other things, the fact that I have been the only motorcycle out in this area for the past few weeks has been nothing but disappointing, yet unsurprising.

Living up in the Cleveland area in the past month and a half has definitely allowed me to see the variety of motorcyclists in that area of the state. It has seemed like clockwork that as September had dwindled and October has cruised on by, the number of two-wheeled vehicles has plummeted to the "die-hard" few that have donned the beanie and hoodie to make the short jaunts down the street. Blame it on the weather dropping to 40°F (that's still above freezing for these keeping score) or the fact that some riders only insure their bikes for half the year, the sharp decline has been pretty obvious. Since using the motorcycle has been my only choice until arrangements have been made for my car (located 160 miles away to the south) has been prepped for snow, I have had to ride many days in non-ideal weather conditions and have done just fine.

I know what some might be thinking, "Why don't you guys get a second car?" Thanks to our limited income and many financial barriers that we're still recovering from, a second, reliable car for both me and my husband to use has not been a feasible option. So I have had to make the most of the resources that we have, and that means turning whatever functioning vehicles we have into urban warfare machines.

Adding to that, the Southern Californian in me has pre-programmed this notion in my head that one rides every day at every possible opportunity. It has been difficult to appeal to this idea up here, but I do what I can to be the stubborn one that refuses to put the motorcycle away. And for goodness sakes, it's Ohio, not Minnesota. Three months maximum for a snow/ice-related layover here is acceptable, but SIX months? There's motorcycle gear for those kinds of spring conditions!

The motorcycle in Ohio is truly a luxury vehicle. If the day isn't pretty, the bike doesn't come out. Up in the Mentor area, there are at least two bike nights I know of. And they both involve bars. I didn't suit up in all my gear to ride two blocks for a Budweiser. Just not my scene. It also impresses me how proud NE Ohioans are of the places they live. When the first thoughts uttered in conversations about me being a fresh transplant here start with "I'm sorry," "Don't like the weather up here? Just wait five minutes, it'll get worse," and "Hope you like to drink because you're going to have to do a lot of it up here," I'm pretty enthusiastic myself! But wait, you're still here. You and me will have to deal with it. And I thought Columbus residents were quite emo.

We all have our own tolerances for what conditions we can ride in. I'm not saying that what I do is ideal for anyone, and for those who have ridden with me, you know that I have very few reasons why I won't put my helmet on and get out there. This part of the year is a frustrating time for me, nevertheless. I will do what I can to cope with it.

Now that I think about it, "A smooth sea never did make a seasoned sailor" doesn't just apply to riding in this scenario. It applies to life. As I'm frustrated at these times with what has been thrown at me (and the multitude of unnecessary barriers put on by biological family members who have nothing else to do but hate me), they just add up to the amusing stories I can tell when I'm on my motorcycle somewhere at a random gas station somewhere in [insert state here].


High school flashbacks galore...ten years can do that to you.

Ten years ago, long before I became the Two-Wheeled Tourist, I was a high school student at the California Academy of Mathematics and Science in Carson, CA. It's a school that has found its place somewhere in the US News rankings year after year, and is probably one of the "nerdiest" public high schools in the United States. I am proud to say that I am an alumna of this institution, and even though I didn't end up in medicine, engineering, or computer science like the vast majority of my classmates, I definitely benefited from the well-rounded and rigorous education I received from there.

This November, my graduating high school class will be celebrating its 10-year reunion in Culver City, CA. Thanks to the timing of the event which has made flights back to Los Angeles way much more than I can afford (Thanksgiving weekend, are you kidding me?), I won't be able to attend. However, I have the fun privilege of embarrassing everyone from 2500 miles away with a DVD chock full of archived photos, videos, and original films from my old collection. This has prompted me to post quite a few of these videos on my personal YouTube channel online. But here on Two-Wheeled Tourist I'll showcase a few of my personal favorite videos and bloopers that'll probably end up being replayed while everyone else is catching up over several drinks. I just hope I don't cause anyone to choke on any olives in the process...


Food Review: Guilio Bonazza's Italian Cuisine (Mentor, OH)

Being cooped up in a hotel is no fun. Walking around the area around my temporary living quarters, I came across a small Italian eatery called Guilio Bonazza's. I figured it would be worth a shot and I was very pleased with the food.

For the appetizer, I started with the garlic knots which were freshly baked bread rolls covered in olive oil and fresh garlic with a sweet marinara sauce for dip. When the server brought them over, I took a full whiff of the finely chopped garlic and olive oil that was slathered all over those rolls. And that tastes like nothing I've ever had before. I'm not a red sauce fan at all, but I'll make a severe exception for that.

My main course was a 10" cheese personal pizza with Italian white sauce and grilled chicken breast on top. The crust had a nice crispy texture on top with a very soft inside. What I liked the most of it was that despite the fact it was a thin crust pizza, it had the crust of a deep dish. Unlike a lot of people, I love pizza crust, and to get a little extra of it was a huge bonus. They have a whole slew of toppings to choose from so you could make a pizza to your heart's desire.

I could taste the authenticity in their dishes. The cheese was fresh, the dough was flavorful, and you smell the fragrance of fresh garlic from a mile away. I'm so doing take-out with these guys when I get my new apartment.

As for dining atmosphere, there's limited seating as the place is designed to be more for carryout. But if you're just looking for a quick eat, it's the place to be. This is definitely a new favorite here in Mentor.

Guilio Bonazza's Pizzeria on Urbanspoon


Food Review: Thai Orchid (Mentor, OH)

After my first day of work at the new job, I decided to go somewhere local to celebrate with some very familiar food that I have always attached with good memories. So I headed to Thai Orchid on Mentor/OH-306.

When I was still a high school teacher (yes I was one in a previous life), my co-teacher at the time introduced me to Pad See-Ew, a flat noodle dish pan fried with meat, Chinese and regular broccoli, egg, and a sweet sauce. It has since then become a favorite dish of mine and one that I look forward to eating when I can make it to an authentic Thai restaurant. This place did not disappoint.

I started my meal by sipping a tall glass of freshly-made Thai tea. It was well-balanced, and all it needed was a giant straw and boba to make it perfect.

A very nice and creamy Thai tea. I would've liked the option of little boba balls floating in there.
As an appetizer, I went with their fried tofu. The sauce was sweet with a tinge of chili topped with crushed peanuts. You definitely needed to douse the tofu pieces in the sauce to bring out the flavor as the tofu by itself didn't have much taste to it. My only critique is that the sauce was a bit thin so it didn't stick very well to the tofu. I made a bit of a mess on my plate trying to get the sauce as spread on the tofu as much as possible but it did taste great when I managed to cover it.

And the main course, a giant plate of Pad See-Ew. I could smell the aroma of sweet sauce steaming off this plate. I enjoyed this dish. The noodles were well done and blended in the sauce. Both types of broccoli were mixed in and not overcooked. The beef in this dish was seasoned well, thinly sliced, and very tender. The only reason I had to stop eating was that I needed some leftovers for tomorrow's lunch!

The benefit of huge portions: Today's leftovers become tomorrow's lunch. Yum.
If you're hanging around Mentor and want some Thai, I definitely recommend giving these guys a shot. Entrees were moderately priced anywhere from $9-15 so it would make an affordable date dinner. Thai Orchid is located at 7329 Mentor Ave., Mentor, OH 44060. You can visit their website at

  Thai Orchid on Urbanspoon


Two-Wheeled Tourist is on the move...

So anyway, I know I've been a bit incognito in the last few weeks. I've had a lot of stuff going on.

After a little over a year and a half at Independent Motorsports, I've picked up stakes and moved on to a new position in Mentor, OH, about 150 miles north of Columbus near the shores of Lake Erie. I'm now at Premier Cycle Accessories, an online retailer that specializes in sport touring and adventure bikes as well as long-distance riders. I couldn't pass that opportunity up! And it's a nice fit for me and I'm hoping to stick around for a while.

Of course, the consequence to this is a bit of a move. Since Matt's job is still treating him very well (and it would be absolutely absurd to move up here without securing something else), we're now in two different parts of Ohio until further notice. Considering that other opportunities could have put me back in California (would've been nice but a heck of a lot more expensive and complicated to move) or in farther states, this actually works out pretty well. It'll be a bit of long distance commuting to see each other and chats with the webcam, but we'll make it work.

There was quite a bit of prep involved, however. I had to go through a lot of things in the apartment and figure out what needed to go with me to Mentor and what just needed to go. After a week of total cleanup and mass recycling, donation, and shipping, I have a lot less unnecessary crap laying around to deal with. Of course when I still had the stuff it was important and relevant to what I was doing, but time can render things useless, especially if they have to deal with a video editing business that's slightly in hiatus. I'm still working on that...

All this (and then some) used to be filled with stuff!
More to come from my new digs as things change. I'm still waiting on my new apartment to be readied for move-in so I'm in an extended stay hotel for a couple weeks. I have to say these places are actually quite nice and chill, definitely a great option when you're in a situation like this. At least I'll have more time to think and write about things. Running, running, running.


Midwest Road Ramblings in Indy and Peoria - Part 2

It usually doesn't take me this long to get a second part to a ride on the blogspace, but I can explain...

So I left my friend's place in Peoria and headed up toward Downer's Grove, IL, a suburb near Chicago. I almost made it in an entire tank but chickened out on the attempt, stopping for fuel in Channahon. I'm glad I did, because with a 6.6 gallon gas tank on Eleanor, filling up with this much gas was a very nice OMG-get-ready-to-slightly-panic moment.

After that little adventure, I found myself at one of the several locations of Total Hockey, a budding chain of hockey stores that actually have a comprehensive selection of gear. Sadly enough, I had to travel this far just to get a pair of hockey referee shorts. I wish there was a store like this in Columbus, OH, but when you have the Columbus Blue Jackets for a minor league team, nobody really takes the sport that seriously.


Midwest Road Ramblings in Indy and Peoria - Part 1

For many a motorcycle racing fan, last weekend was the Indianapolis Moto GP races. Thanks to an long string of events, an old California buddy acquired luxury suite passes for the entire event and as a result, I got to meet her for dinner and another friend of mine received free passes to the races (isn't it fun when things work out like that?).

So after work on Saturday, I jumped on my bike and barreled west on I-70 to meet up with my friend at Dick's Bodacious BBQ located in the main square in the middle of Downtown Indianapolis. Mind you, this is the first time I've ever been down to the city during Moto GP weekend, so the tens of thousands of motorcycles that lined up the plaza and the surrounding areas was amazing. It was a sea of machines with a variety that I had never seen before in a single place. Thanks to the event security (ran by volunteers of Indiana ABATE), I was able to park Eleanor within walking distance of the restaurant.

This was the tip of a very, very huge iceberg of bikes.


The hockey equipment workshop...

As many of my friends know, if I'm not on my motorcycle, I'm out at the hockey rink either stopping pucks or shooting them at the net. Now, having a tight budget and playing this very equipment-oriented sport usually doesn't mix, but when your other half works at the rink, a lot of stuff can be repaired or installed without the need to pay for those services. It also helps that he's awesome with a sewing machine.

So here's a couple of the fun alterations and projects that we've done in the past few weeks.

Project 1: DIY goalie pad knee stack upgrade

Problem: Goalie pad does not provide enough support while in a kneeling or "butterfly" position. At times, the knee area will directly hit the ice. Examples of said position are below.

Solution: restuff current knee stack/padding area and add an additional stack.


Ride Review: 2012 Ducati Diavel

It's not often that I'll jump on a bike, take off on a test ride, go "whee, whee, whee!" and want to ride it all the way home. That was the case with the 2012 Ducati Diavel, the Italian motorcycle maker's take on the cruiser genre. I had the opportunity to stop by Touring Sport in Greenville, SC, one of the sponsors for this year's Women On Wheels® International Ride-In, to test ride this exotic beast.

With the modern, avant-garde styling of the Diavel, it's pretty difficult for me to even consider it to be a "cruiser" despite its designation by Ducati. It has the huge rear tire of a custom cruiser, the upright posture of a naked bike, and the ridiculous power of a sportbike with an innovative computer system to boot. When I threw a leg over this machine, its ergonomics had me thinking that I was on a low-slung Monster rather than the stereotypical laid-back posture of a standard cruiser. The foot controls were so upright, in fact, that I thought I was in an office chair with handlebars! And I could even stand up straight on the pegs!

Getting ready to rip the pavement on one sleek Duc!


Ride Review: 2012 Yamaha Super Téneré

This is a review that I've hoped to have the chance to do, and this bike is definitely worth the test ride.

Several weeks ago, I had the opportunity to throw a leg over a 2012 Yamaha Super Téneré XT1200Z on a 20 minute test ride through some of the nicest roads in northern Ohio. I still can't stop thinking of this bike, especially because of its split personality - it's an adventure bike that offers not only a smooth ride down paved roads but also has the ability to take you down dirt paths effortlessly. Now, granted that I'll probably be doing most of my travel on the street/highway, this machine gives me even more confidence to explore the most random places off the beaten path.


2012 Ride-In Report: Tagging states and the way home.

It's been a very fun week at the WOW International Ride-In in Greenville, SC! I had a lot of work to do on my end, thanks to my position at Women On Wheels®, but it was productive. Hopefully members who attended my seminars about local chapter organization and using social media were able to take away something from them. The preparation for those presentations (and my online blogging absence over the last couple months) were definitely worth it.

Because of the tight schedule during the event and the fact that I had to be back in Columbus on Saturday so that Matt could get to work, we had to book it. Since it's probably going to be a while until we return to that part of the country on motorcycles, we made slight detour south about 350 miles to tag a couple more states with the two wheels. We headed down to Atlanta, GA, then to Gadsden, AL, and back up to Columbus via Chattanooga, TN and I-75/I-71. We took a break for the night and stayed in Georgetown, KY to rest up for the last 200 miles to Columbus.

Luckily, the route we took put us behind several severe storm systems. We only hit rain twice, once north of Chattanooga and the last leg home, starting in Florence, KY. We were so determined to go home that we rode the last 120 miles in a complete downpour without stopping to put on the rain gear! So yes, everything is either in the clothes dryer or attached to the motorcycle gear dryer in the living room. Huzzah.

Here's the route!

View Larger Map

By the way, I'm already preparing for next year's WOW Ride-In in Billings, MT. Here's the video I made for this year's closing ceremonies to re-introduce this site to the membership. It's the largest party of the year for our organization, and we're always looking for more ladies to hang out with us!


2012 Ride-In Report: Columbus, OH to Asheville, NC

As much as I wanted to do the proposed route in my previous post, time and budget constraints put us on a more direct route to South Carolina. To get down to Greenville, we decided to take US Highway 23 South all the way down. For most people in Columbus, this road, which includes High Street that runs right through the city, is more known for being the main road north toward the cities of Delaware, Upper Sandusky, Toledo, and Ann Arbor, MI to name a few. When it's taking southbound, you would encounter Circleville, OH, Ashland, KY, and if you take it long enough, Asheville, NC. US-23 has been the source of a few of my other adventures in the opposite direction, one of them I write about extensively in a previous blog post, "Ride Report: Hockey Heaven is in...Michigan?! My journey to Perani's Hockey World."

The first half of the route before we really entered the mountains and steep inclines of Kentucky dealt out some unbearable heat. Temps were well into the triple-digits and just bearing down on us and the bikes. Although I had a lightweight, mesh jacket on, the evaporative cooling vest came out in Kentucky and stayed on until we reached Asheville. If you've never used one of those, you're missing out on instant relief from sweltering temps.

Aside from the hot conditions, the only other issue we encountered was the top speed of Matt's 2008 Piaggio BV250 scooter on uphill climbs. I think we've seen its limits when dealing with elevating terrain, but it did its best chugging along at a maximum 48-52MPH at wide open throttle. It also helped that we were on a quieter highway on a Sunday.

The seemingly mountainous areas were only separated by state signs.
Beautiful sights from the partly cloudy overlooks in higher elevations.
The uphill climbs were doing a number on the mileage and top speed on Matt's Piaggio BV250, so an extra 1-gallon gas can was in order in the mountainous areas.
More touring with one of the strangest bike duos around!
There's not much to the route; just take US-23 southbound, and if you're crossing state lines and not encountering any Canadian border guards, then you're going the right way. Despite that simplicity, it was a beautiful ride through the mountains of Kentucky, Virginia, and Tennessee. For more information about US Highway 23, click here.

Also, if you ever have the chance to swing by Asheville, NC, I suggest spending a couple days to see what this beautiful city is all about. There's a lot of promising restaurants out here and more famously, the Biltmore Estate, the largest privately owned home in the United States. I hope to find my way back here for an extensive review.


Holy cr*p...can I just go on vacation now?

I do apologize for the slight online absence as of late. Long story short, there's been a lot of craziness and stress to go around in my part of the universe (to say the least), and it only took a freak severe thunderstorm to knock out power at work, send me home early, and then have me camp at Barnes and Noble because I've now joined the hundreds of thousands of Ohio residents who don't have power at their homes for the next few hours. Free Wi-Fi is a wonderful thing when you have a laptop and will travel!

With that being said, the end of June heralds an event that I always look forward to (and have written about many times over the years): the Women On Wheels® International Ride-In. This year's in Greenville, SC, less than 500 miles from Columbus, OH. And for the first time in a couple years, Matt gets to join me on this vacation!

As tradition would call it on my blogs, if I don't get enough time to write about the happenings about the trip, I will, at the minimum, reveal the projected ride there. This year, Mann and I will take advantage of a few extra days off off work and attempt to fulfill a personal goal of mine that has been several years in the making: ride through all 48 continental states on Eleanor, the still very functional, high-mileage Yamaha FJR1300AWC.

As of today, I have crossed 43 of them, and the remaining five all happen to be in the SE corner: Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, and Georgia. So, to cross into all of these states, we're proposing a approximately 900 mile detour, or rather, the "long way" to Greenville, SC.

As for the straight-forward way to Greenville, it's something I've done before. In fact, I've ridden to Spartanburg, SC (about 40 miles away) for a long distance lunch and to complete my first, documented Iron Butt SaddleSore 1000 in 2010.

Here's the proposed map of the journey. We're looking at two, 550-650 mile days and a quick 300 mile jaunt into South Carolina.

View Larger Map


Eleanor hangs out with Dirk Blacker Graphix

A couple weeks ago, my store held an Armed Forces Day Celebration event where I invited several vendors to come and advertise their businesses/services. Among them was custom pinstriper and sign painter Dirk Blacker. He brought his samples and paint with him, and after seeing some of his work, I had him help me fulfill a dream that I had in the back of my mind for many years: to draw Traveler and Tommy Trojan somewhere on my FJR1300.

Here's a little photo collage of what he did to my motorcycle. Here's the image that I gave him, and Dirk got to work on it.
This design is originally a sticker, but simply slapping this on the machine wouldn't do it any justice.

Food Review: Buckeye Pho (Columbus, OH)

Here's another local eat I had the chance to enjoy with a friend a couple weeks ago, the same one who helped me explore the Mazah Mediterranean Eatery back in January. This time, we've traveled to another continent with Buckeye Pho in Columbus.

It's a very casual place with multiple TV screens and a open table seating. We sat around the middle of the restaurant to enjoy the open scenery. Since it was a Tuesday evening, the place was relatively empty so service was quick.

We started with fried calamari with a tangy sauce. The squid was a bit heavy and had a deep-fried taste to it, but the sauce helped to cancel it out and give it a bit of flavor.

The pho, however did not disappoint. I ordered their deluxe pho (fully loaded) and received it piping hot and loaded with noodles. It was a well-balanced soup and I could taste the various types of brisket, meatballs, tripe, and tendons. I would have liked, however, more tripe and tendons but overall it was a great rendition of this staple Vietnamese dish.

For dessert, I went for a mocha bubble tea. It was quite tasty. My only qualm about full slush with tapioca boba balls is that the huge amount of ice tends to freeze the tapioca and makes it hard to suck them up with the straw. But for the seasoned boba drinkers, it's half the fun.

Overall, Buckeye Pho is great place for cheap eats, filling food, and casual dining. It's located at 761 Bethel Rd, Ste. E195, Columbus, OH 43235.

 Buckeye Pho on Urbanspoon


600cc Sportbikes: Idiots Not Recommended...

I'm still watching the young bucks come into the motorcycle store asking for a 600cc sportbike as a "first ride" when it's obvious they know nothing or very little about riding. When I hear their attempts to hide the fact they're completely clueless, I giggle a bit in my head and then go back to work at my desk.

This is a subject that I touched on in a previous blog post, "On 600cc Sportbikes: Some Experience Required."  If you'd like to see where I stand on beginner riders on "crotch rockets" and to understand the context of this blog post, please read that first.

So, for the entertainment of my seasoned riders out there, here are a few of the many idiotic statements that I've heard from a number of young, inexperienced riders in the last few months.


Food Review: Knight's Ice Cream (Westerville, OH)

I will ride. For ice cream.

This one's a local, seasonal ice cream stop right near my place, and it beckons for mass groups of motorcyclists looking for a place to meet and hang out. It's quickly become a favorite of mine for its convenient location from I-270, simple storefront, and vast selection of delicious flavors.

The ice cream is made in the store, with dozens of flavors to choose from. So far, I've sampled scoops of their White Chocolate Macadamia Nut, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, and Bailey's Irish Cream. For the more calorie conscious folk, they offer zero/low calorie flavor selection as well. Just give them a's all tasty!

Some of the multitudes of flavors of ice cream.
Quick shot of their "Knightsticks." Think freshly-made drumstick cones you can purchase individually or in quantity.
With outside seating, ample parking, and options ranging from triple scoops, waffle cones, and quarts to-go, it's the perfect hang-out or quick snack stop on a warm summer night. Bring the friends and enjoy!

Knight's Ice Cream is located at 596 Cleveland Ave., Westerville, OH 43081. You can visit their website @

 Knight's Ice Cream on Urbanspoon


How to make religion fun again - with motorcycles.

I've had some interesting run-ins with Christian based motorcycle groups.

One of my favorite stories was my rest stop at Zion Harley-Davidson in Washington, Utah in 2009. I was riding from Los Angeles to Columbus, OH and parked at this dealership to take a break. (When you're a long-distance rider, you learn very quickly that H-D dealerships along interstates are great places of refuge, regardless of what motorcycle you ride!) I was still two hours from my final destination for the night in Salina, UT, and as I got up to leave, a representative from the local Christian Motorcyclist Association chapter stopped me and invited me over for a BBQ they were roasting near the dealership's front entrance. I ended up sticking around for another half hour and chatted it up with other riders about my journeys while filling myself up with a free dinner. My experience was so positive that I even got out of there with H-D dip dot* from that location stuck to my bike's fairing and is still there to this very day.

*NOTE: A dip dot is a small emblem that is placed over a Harley-Davidson motorcycle's oil dipstick cover. Dealerships have their own dip dots that help identify the origin of the bike's sale. Riders have been known to collect these as a reminder of where they've traveled on their bikes. Here's an example (left).

Anyway, the easiest way to make something relevant and motivational to a group of people is to (1) be happy and positive, (2) find a common theme or interest that binds everyone together, and (3) hold activities that brings everyone together. In this case, the draw for this group is the love for two wheels, the chance to ride down the open road with others, and charitable work that benefits others with special needs and/or are less fortunate. When I was growing up, the only church fundraisers in my Catholic parish (which I will not name to save them the embarrassment) I dealt with only benefited the church's maintenance department and paying for some priest's vacation - no joke.

A couple weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend a Saturday Night Biker Blessing event hosted by the GEARS Motorcycle Ministry who are based out of the Grove City Church of the Nazarene.

I'm standing in the worship center in my Aerostitch suit and surrounded by other like-minded motorcyclists in their respective vests, colors, and patches while watching a choir and full-blown concert. And these guys are really into it too!

One of the few places where your church clothes is your riding gear. WIN.
I will admit that I'm not at the point in my life to seek any sort of religious group or return to a regular routine of weekly worship - I'm still suffering from the scars of a decade of deceit and hypocrisy that have separated me from the people who are biologically related to me. However, it is refreshing to know that there are people out there who still use Christianity as a banner of goodwill and charity toward other human beings regardless of their faith (or lack thereof), which Catholicism has failed at miserably over the last several years and still continues to do.

GEARS is one of several motorcycle-based ministries in the Columbus region. Other wonderful groups I have had the opportunity to meet are Leave a Mark Ministries and Sons of Thunder. I recommending checking them out to see what they're about, and at the minimum, meet a few new friends.

If you'd like to continue hearing about my issues with my former "faith" (and aren't easily offended by personal opinion), you can continue clicking below. Otherwise, go out there and make some new friends at a motorcycle ministry.


Food Review: Scooters Dawg House (Mentor, OH)

I don't usually start a food review with the goods first, but this is some serious culinary porn. Want to see more of this Super Dawg? Read on.


Quick Peek: 2009 Honda ST1300 Police Bike

Just had to share this one today. My motorcycle store just picked up one of the more interesting bikes I've seen in a while. It's a de-badged, but not decommissioned, 2009 Honda ST1300 Police Edition.

Living in Southern California, the Honda ST1300 is a very popular police motorcycle that is used by several departments in LA and Orange County. Some of these departments include the LAPD, Irvine Police, Newport Beach, and Fullerton just to name a few. In Northern California, the San Jose Police use them heavily. And they're often used as a cost-effective alternative to the BMW R1200RT that is used primarily by the California Highway Patrol.

Out here in Ohio, there are no known police departments that use sport-touring bikes; in fact, all the police motorcycles I've seen out here are Harley-Davidson cruisers. So it's quite unusual to see this bike here, and it's very nice to see (and sit on) a little piece of home.

When I rode on SoCal freeways in heavily congested traffic, following a police bike while lane-splitting in between stopped cars was like catching an awesome wave while surfing. Cars would move in their lane to provide more space, and you'd just take advantage of it on your motorcycle. Although it's technically not illegal in Ohio to perform this move (I checked), most people out here would try to kill you out of sheer anger and stupidity. For more thoughts on what I consider to be one of the greatest privileges in motorcycle riding, click here.

Unfortunately, I won't be able to ride it down the street; it is illegal in Ohio as a civilian to ride any motorcycle with police lights and siren still installed on it, whether or not they are used during operation. Darn. But enjoy the photos!

Front of the bike.
Rear of the bike. Passenger seat is replaced with a plastic cowl and additional bracket added to hold the lights.
Honda factory installed police bike controls (throttle side). settings 1-3 are for police lights, 4 is siren, 5 is preset on/off. Headlights and running lights can be turned off independently.  
Clutch side controls. No difference from a stock Honda ST1300 except for an added intercom push-to-talk button. Windshield is electronically adjustable with a toggle switch.
This is about the furthest I can travel with it, but it never hurts to dream. :)