Google+ Two-Wheeled Tourist: NorCal Revisited Part 5: Motorcycles and hockey do mix with surprising results.


NorCal Revisited Part 5: Motorcycles and hockey do mix with surprising results.

Long time, no see! I'm starting 2018 with the conclusion of an adventure that I started back in July 2017. Yeah, I admit to being that far behind, but I have reasons. I will say that it is extremely satisfying to come back and finish telling this story, especially because the circumstances that prevented me from completing this no longer exist.

The last half of 2017 had been inundated with incidents and events that have kept me away from my blog space (not to mention grad school), but I hope to add to the random stories throughout this year. As for the tales of this vacation from July 2017, let's just say that not long after my ride home in the triple digits (both in temperature and in mileage), my work life went into a tailspin and far out of my control, and that waking nightmare didn't end until September. Anyway, I'm very glad to be back and I'm determined to stay on track the best I can. So, without further adieu, I get to talk about the part of my motorcycle vacation that involved a hockey tournament.

So how did hockey end up happening during this motorcycle vacation? About two weeks before I was planning to leave for this trip, I received an inquiry from my hockey friend, Danielle, asking if I was interested in playing in the 2017 Women and Wine Adult Classic in Northern California, more specifically, Vacaville, during the weekend that I was going to be up there anyway with Eleanor.  I would be representing the Bakersfield Barracudas, a team based out of Bakersfield. I did a quick Google search and realized that it was about 30 minutes away from where I was staying in Sacramento for the last leg of my trip. So I volunteered to guard the net in exchange for her to transport all of my goalie equipment up there and back.

My first game started at 7:30PM on Friday night, not long after I had ridden 150 miles north from Hollister after getting Eleanor's motorcycle seat replaced, and I carpooled to the rink from my other friend Amanda's house in Sacramento. I actually made it to the rink, Vacaville Ice Sports, earlier than Danielle who had my equipment in her car and had to drive all the way up from Los Angeles after work(!). But she made it in time for me to get dressed without rushing too badly. We won the first game 2-0 with the second game scheduled for 12:30PM the following day.

My passions collide in the most unlikely situations. One suit of armor comes off and another one is put on in its place.
A little action shot from the first game of the tournament.
On Saturday morning, I went with Amanda on a quick motorcycle ride to Flapjack's Diner for breakfast and to hang out with another friend. When I left, I ended up getting on the wrong side of I-80 and got lost, putting me at risk of being late for the game. I was able to find my bearings after a couple U-turns and ended up blasting through random sunflower fields and farmland somewhere down a couple empty country roads that eventually meandered back to I-505. This was all happening with temps reaching into the mid-90s and me in a slight panic. My fears were calmed when I called Danielle about the situation while I was blasting down I-505 and she informed me that the tournament was running more than 45 minutes behind schedule. At that point, I slowed Eleanor back down to legal highway speed. I will not comment on how fast we were flying, but let's just say that at one point the GPS map estimate cut off nearly five minutes from the original predicted arrival time.

Taking a photo with my long-time buddy, Amanda Steedley, author of the I've Been Licked book series. This was minutes before I hopped on the wrong direction of I-80 and got severely lost.
We played the second game and lost by a score of 2-1. After that game, we stayed on the ice for some funny team photos as it was a teammate's birthday and we were just goofy like that. Someone brought a phone to the bench and we had a little fun. Also, I had mentioned that the name of the tournament was "Women and Wine." Yes, we were women, and yes, there was quite a few selections of wine to sample from a nearby winery. I'll take the Malbec, please.

Stressed? Me? Nah. I just rode like the Dickens to get down here and saw a bunch of sunflowers. No big. Halp.
The roster is about as random as the personalities within this team.
In between these Saturday games, I took advantage of the outside heat and let my gear dry in the sun. Using the camping chair that I brought with me on the bike, I turned my parking stall into a one-of-a-kind drying area. There were quite a number of women from the other teams who were intrigued by the story of my vacation and this unique outdoor setup. While I let my gear toast, I went back inside the rink and started blogging this vacation (the first three parts of this series were mostly completed during the hockey tournament). Our next matchup, originally scheduled for 5:30PM, didn't start until nearly 6:30PM, and we won that game decisively with a score of 5-2.

That is probably one of the most unique uses I've had for a camping chair.
And now here's where the tournament scenario got interesting. Due to the number of teams and the tournament format, there was no playoff round. Determining who was going on to the championship game on Sunday morning all depended on several tie-breakers including games won, goals for, and goals against. There was a three-way tie for second place so we wouldn't know whether or not we were playing the next day until the conclusion of the final game of our division that night. At the end of our game, we were the most mathematically unlikely team to advance, but after waiting an hour and a half and a couple rounds of tournament-provided tacos from Carlos Mejia's Curbside Kitchen, we found out that we had made the championship game by the skin of our teeth. Our opponent would the San Jose Burninators, a team that had a perfect 3-0 record in the tournament and had beaten the other teams by no less than four goals. In fact, they had 16 goals for and only one goal against coming into the Sunday championship game.

So here's a rag-tag group of women who had never played with each other on a regular basis, the goalie and a forward from Los Angeles, a portion of the team from Bakersfield, and the remaining women a last-minute add-on from a team in West Sacramento playing against a dedicated team out of San Jose that was obviously placed in the wrong division, as seen by their absolute dominance in every single game. In essence, it was, literally, the State of California versus San Jose. [On a side note, I had played against a version of the San Jose Burninators in a hockey tournament in Las Vegas a decade prior and had won.] I wondered how this was going to play out when the puck dropped at 9:30AM the next morning.

When we all made it to the locker room to discuss the strategy for the game on Sunday morning, the consensus was to keep the game as close to textbook hockey as possible. With everyone sticking to their specific roles, we drew blood first, scoring a goal in the first period. We would hang on to that 1-0 lead until the 3rd when we scored the second goal. San Jose would score with less than a minute left to spoil my shutout bid, but we held on to win a nailbiter of a game with a final score of 2-1.

This tournament definitely goes down in my own personal history as one of the most memorable moments in my hockey career. This was definitely worth the extra hike through NorCal.
The ending to this trip couldn't be written any better. Here we were, just playing together for fun and we took the whole thing in dramatic fashion. After enjoying the moment and going our separate ways, it was a shower for me and a 450-mile ride home. I took US-101 this time around, hoping that it was going to be a bit cooler of a journey, but I was met with the hottest conditions of the entire vacation with temps peaking over 110ºF through the Central Valley. My evaporative cooling vest and Camelbak helped me get through these conditions, and I made it back to Los Angeles safely around 7PM that night and celebrated the victories with sushi in Little Tokyo.

When I look back at this trip and the insane personal events that followed afterwards, I remember my perseverance and inner strength through the heat and the long hours on the saddle. I remember feeling the happiness of embarking on the longest motorcycle ride I had taken since the summer of 2013. These experiences just add to my storybook, and I will look back on this adventure quite fondly.

I rode 1500 miles in six days and all I got was time to hang out with two friends, a new motorcycle seat, new memories in San Francisco, a 60-degree fluctuation in temperature, grad school homework done from 430 miles away, and this hockey tournament championship banner. That is a way too long description for a coffee mug.
The final tournament schedule and standings.

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